published Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

Wintry mix may blow back into Tennessee Valley

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    Staff Photo by John Rawlston Chattanooga Department of Public Works employees restock sand in the storage facility just off 11th Street where they received 500 tons on Wednesday. The city stores salt, sand and a mixture of the two at the facility, in addition to brine solution to battle icy road conditions.

As forecasters say more snow could fall across the area Monday, road crews hope their salt supplies can hold out through another storm.

Chattanooga Public Works Assistant Director Tony Boyd said Friday afternoon that salt supplies for the city were "dwindling fast."

Boyd said the normal formula to put on the road is an equal mix of salt and sand. He said due to the shortage in salt they changed the mix they use to three parts sand to one part salt to make the salt last longer.

"Salt is scarce right now," Boyd said. "We continue to adapt our strategy and do the best we can."

Boyd said Public Works changed how it prepared its road mix after a Web forum with weather officials. Boyd said it became apparent from hearing from other areas that salt was in short supply.

"We rethought our attack plan and changed strategy for the last storm," Boyd said. "We may have been in a jam otherwise."

Boyd said the city recently ordered 500 tons of salt from a vendor. Of the 500 tons, only 100 tons has come in so far, and he said it isn't clear when the rest will arrive.

Dalton, Ga., Public Works Director Benny Dunn said the city had enough salt to get through a 2- to 5-inch snow event.

"We have enough for a moderate snow event," Dunn said. "If we get more than the Christmas snow we could be in trouble."

Dunn said salt supplies are scarce all along the East Coast as the coastline has had record snows so far this season.

"All of us are in the same sinking ship," Dunn said. "Let's hope we get more salt soon or don't get any more snow."

The Tennessee Department of Transportation released a statement Friday also adjusting their strategy to deal with snow and ice.

The release states due to low salt supplies they will increase the use of a salt brine and calcium chloride to melt snow. According to the release, TDOT is expecting a new shipment of salt in early February. Until then it could take state crews longer to clear roads.

Meteorologists are saying it's still early to know for certain what could happen.

WRCB-TV Channel 3 meteorologist Paul Barys said current weather models are showing mostly rain Monday night turning to snow overnight. He said rain Tuesday could turn to snow as well.

"It's way too early to tell right now," Barys said. "However, there is the potential for snow Tuesday night."

National Weather Service meteorologist Mary Black said a cold front is expected to hit next week that could bring snow, but the timing is still uncertain.

"Expect another round of snow next week," Black said.

The forecast for North Georgia calls for more rain Monday.

Weather Service forecaster Mike Leary in Peachtree City, Ga., said North Georgia could see flurries Saturday night with a 20 percent chance of snow Sunday. He said Monday's forecast appears to be a mix of rain and snow.

Contact staff writer Jeremy Belk at jbelk@timesfreepress.com or call 423-757-6345.

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