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Salty Problem: University And County Run Out Of Road Salt

Marine Perot
Icy sidewalk on SEMO main campus

Southeast Missouri State University’s administration decided to close its campuses for three straight days last Wednesday, partially because the university ran out of road salt to treat the ice-covered campus. That, combined with freezing temperatures, has given campus parking lots and sidewalks the look and feel of an ice-skating rink.

The university is not the only local entity to run out of salt. Cape Girardeau County Commissioner Paul Koeper told KRCU the county ran out of salt and is currently trying to order more. As of now, if another storm hits the area, the county will mainly rely on sand.

“We will continue to use sand, and sanders and to try keep the roads from being so slick when they are and then we remove the snow as it comes down. So that’s where we’re at,” said Koeper.

Cape Girardeau County bought about 150 tons of salt last year, but this was already used before Christmas. Another 150 tons were then bought but those supplies are already gone. Koeper added that the demand stretches from southeast Missouri all the way up to the Northeast of the country and the coast. But as the county is trying to figure out how to get more salt, the city of Cape Girardeau has everything under control.

“We have enough, we could outlast another couple storms like we just had so right now we are not too worried about it but we do need to restock since we’re down about half and we’re going to keep an eye on the supplies,”  Cape Girardeau’s public works director Tim Gramling said.

The Missouri Department of Transportation is doing fine as far as their salt supplies are concerned. Beth Wright is the state maintenance engineer for MoDOT. She said the Department of Transportation’s supplies are indeed lower than usual due to the frequent storms experienced by the state since early December, but they have plenty of tools to attack new storms.

“We are in good shape for the next storm,” Wright said.

She added the road-salt normally costs between $50 and $75 a ton, but there are additional trucking costs and a ton can be more expensive depending on how far it comes from.

In a written statement, officials from a salt trade group, the Salt Institute, said the public should not be too concerned about the road salt supplies.

“There isn’t a salt shortage—salt is in abundant supply. However, some of the country is experiencing a more severe winter than normal leaving some municipalities and Departments of Transportation with low inventories. While many agencies try to have enough salt on hand in the fall to get them through an entire winter, recent weather is forcing many to order again mid-season which is not an ideal situation as there is a lead time for delivery,” said Lori Roman, President of the Salt Institute.

The salt “haves” and “have-nots” are rather apparent. Cape Girardeau city roads are in good condition, while campus parking lots and sidewalks are still slick. In the county, many roads are still covered in ice. Koeper said the repeated attack of ice and snow on gravel county roads is causing wear and tear.

That’s a problem Koeper will have to face after the thaw.


Marine Perot was a KRCU reporter for KRCU in 2014.