Arlington County explains road salt mishap

WASHINGTON – Arlington County residents are sounding off on the state of the icy roads after the county ran so low on road salt, it started mixing in sand to help motorists get enough traction to get around.

The county sent alerts to residents Friday morning, as late as 10:30 a.m., asking them to stay off “treacherous and icy roads”.

The county all but ran out of salt ahead of Thursday’s snowstorm. But its getting a delivery Friday night.

Drivers began sounding off on social media after they found some roads nearly impassable.

Dave Hundelt, Arlington County Chief Operating Engineer, says at the beginning of the storm, all the county really needed was plows to clear the snow, but he is the first to say salt would have helped. “If we could have have some salt down there, we could have gotten some running water going on and cleared the pavement,” Hundelt says.

In a county full of hills, he says salt was reserved for major roads on an incline.

“We mostly just plowed and unfortunately, we were left with snow packed roadways,” he says.

The reason behind the shortage? High demand.

Road salt is as good as gold along the eastern seaboard, with cities from Maine to the Carolinas dealing with snow removal.

The 4,000-ton order the county submitted to its vendor on Jan. 19 was never delivered. After a lot of back and forth and finding a new vendor, Hundelt says the President’s Day snow event really cut down the existing supply.

Wednesday, he sent 15 trucks to Baltimore in hopes a vendor would take the county’s money on spot and fill the trucks with salt. They came back with the next best thing, sand.

While he says it was helpful, salt really would have made for an easier commute Friday.

“Salt certainly becomes less effective below 20 degrees … but it will still work to soften the snow,” he says.

The county is expecting a delivery of 2,000 tons of road salt from Pittsburgh Friday evening.

To report a snow issue in the county, fill out this form on the county’s website.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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