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State says salt getting tight; may limit supplies to cities, counties

Staff report

A robust winter season and more precipitation expected in the coming weeks has Kentucky Transportation Cabinet officials looking for ways to conserve salt as deliveries slow and materials run in short supply.

With less than 150,000 tons of salt on hand and delivery becoming increasingly difficult, transportation engineers are implementing strategies to stretch the remaining supply. When conditions permit crews will rely more on plowing, according to a news release.

On average, the cabinet uses 200,000 to 250,000 tons of salt a year. This winter, crews have spread more than 300,000 tons. With most of the country experiencing a harsh winter, shipments of salt have slowed and new supplies are hard to find.

Salt reserves across Kentucky are dwindling. Even the state's largest reserve, at the Louisville Mega Cavern, has been deeply tapped.

The highway department began this winter with a 60,000-ton emergency reserve inside the Mega Cavern. As of Saturday, the reserve was down to 26,000 tons.

The salt shortage also means the state is unable to fill all requests it receives from county and municipal governments for additional salt. KYTC's top priority and obligation is to the state highway system.

"We like to be aggressive about clearing our roadways," Kentucky Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock said. "But we also must be careful in our planning and judicious in our use of salt and other materials to ensure we don't run out."

While crews work to keep roads clear and safe, drivers are asked to adopt safe driving habits, including slowing down and exercising great caution, giving a wide berth to snow plows and other heavy highway equipment, and keeping emergency supplies in vehicle. Drivers are advised to remain in their vehicles if stranded and wait for help.

Links to weather updates, weather safety tips, including winter driving tips, can be found on the Kentucky Emergency Management website at www.kyem.ky.gov.

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