Salt shortages, threat of black ice spark concern in Northeast

8:56 PM, Feb 6, 2014   |    comments
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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - The snow and ice have fallen, but the worry has now turned to the overnight hours - with drizzling rain still coming down and major concerns that the water will coat the roads and turn to ice.

A winter weather advisory remained in effect until 10 a.m. for the five boroughs of New York City, northeast New Jersey, the northern suburbs, southern Connecticut, and all of Long Island. A threat of black ice remained in place for the Thursday morning commute.

And all that comes with an increasing salt shortage for many Tri-State Area municipalities.

"The roads? I wish they were better, but the city got caught with their pants down with the shortage of salt," said Bill Vaxmonosky of Garfield, N.J.

Hudson County, N.J., only had 20 percent of its usual salt supply on hand. A demand for a 1,000-ton order from the supplier for the county won a promise of just 50 tons - and that won't arrive until the end of the week.

"The salt supplies are just not available," Hudson County Office of Emergency Management coordinator Jim Woods said Wednesday. "We actually have two towns that just notified our office they are completely out of salt in Hudson County, and it's going to make for an extremely dangerous commute tomorrow."

In Huntington, Long Island, crews on Wednesday were diluting the roadway salt because of the shortages.

"We were mixing 50/50 salt and sand, but we dropped it down to 20 percent salt, 80 percent sand," said Pete Gunther of the Huntington Highway Department.

Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo said supplies there were spread so thin Tuesday night they couldn't cover every municipality.

"We're doing the best we could," he told WCBS 880's Levon Putney. "It's been a rough winter."

Towns and villages across New Jersey and New York state are suffering what Gov. Andrew Cuomo called "dire" salt shortages. And no salt means roads and streets will be left more slippery and more dangerous.

For that reason, the state decided to send about 3,500 tons of salt to New York City and Long Island.

"We have enough of a supply now to be able to help areas that have a truly dire situation - primarily Long Island and the New York City area," Cuomo said in a Wednesday conference call. "We're working to get salt into the state now."

New York City officials said they have enough salt for the storm Wednesday and the next one, but were certainly glad to get a few thousand tons from the state.

"At this moment, we feel very good about our supply, given the storm coming up," Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said he is grateful Cuomo sent some extra salt his way, but added that the county is counting on additional shipments to get through the winter.

"We've taken a hard hit," he told WCBS 880. "We're counting on supplies coming in later this week, but we're pretty low at this point."

Bellone added that the county is already exceeding its salt budget for the winter.

"But when it comes to public safety, we're not going to stop putting the salt down," he said. "We're not going to stop plowing the streets. We figure out how to move money from other accounts. People's safety is our top priority."

Truckers told TV 10/55's Richard Rose they'll be able to bring in more sand to Long Island now that Cuomo has suspended weight restrictions on major bridges. But it will take time.

"Every little town has a salt yard that has to be fed, and it takes a lot of trucking to do so," said truck driver Bruce Barth.

Trucks have been rolling nonstop treating major highways and sanding secondary roads. Cleanup managers are hoping Wednesday afternoon's rain and higher temperatures will lend a hand.

"It's helping to melt some of the snow and actually get it wet so we can scrape the roads clean," Gunther said. "So maybe (Wednesday night) we won't have to put down as much sand and salt."

It's not just road salt that is in short supply, but also the rock salt that most homeowners use to treat their driveways.

Giro Dilillo, of Prianti Farms, a nursery and landscape supply store in Dix Hills, told Rose the store has about 40 buckets of salt left. "And then I believe we're not going to get any more until February 20th," he said.

And in parts of New Jersey, even salt for sidewalks is hard to find. CBS 2's Jessica Schneider went out to hand-deliver bags to people in neighborhoods who are still working to dig out.

"My dad had sent me to, like, Home Depot in Secaucus, and Wal-Mart, Sam's Club - nothing out there, nothing; Lowe's, nothing. It's like, it's crazy," said Nick Matteillo of Secaucus, who received a bag of salt from Schneider.

Lauren Colangelo also tweeted Schneider asked her to drop by her parents' house. And that was just what Schneider did.

Colangelo's father, Robert Zych, said the winter had been "terrible."

"The sidewalk's been very icy. We have a double driveway here - it's murder trying to clear out the driveway itself and then cleaning off the cars, and we have a snow emergency on the main street here," Zych said.

In Connecticut, Gov. Dannel Malloy said municipalities are not experiencing dire salt shortages and that more shipments are on the way.

CBS 2's Lonnie Quinn said the temperatures were poised to drop well below freezing overnight, with 20 degrees in the city, 12 in Newburgh and just 7 in Liberty at 6 a.m. Thursday.

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