Safety of citizens top priority when winter weather strikes

Safety of citizens top priority when winter weather strikes

To salt or not to salt, that is the question.

With a 40 percent chance to a 100 percent chance of slick, wintry weather, Martin Public Works Director Billy Wagster said public safety is a top priority and doing nothing is not worth the risk.

“We can’t afford to not put brine down when snow and ice are forceasted for the general public’s sake,” Wagster commented as his crews were prepping to reload the trucks and head out for a third time Wednesday morning.

Wagster said the salt the city uses is ordered well in advance of summer. Once it is delivered, it is stored until a brine mixture is needed. The salt is then combined with a liquid in the city’s vats and the mixture is turned into brine, something that is commonly used in preparation of raodways in advance of inclement weather.

“Salt is pretty cheap compared to the price of accidents,” the public works director added.

Wagster said the brine must be spread onto roadways when the temperatures are above freezing. If temps are above freezing, then it takes a couple of hours for the water to evaporate from the brine mixture, leaving a white sodium-based residue on the roadways. That residue is what prevents snow and ice from slickening the roadways.

Wagster said the state highway department will salt or brine regardless of the chance of snow or ice and typically, residents throughout Weakley County find that the municipalities will follow the state’s lead.

Wagster verified that a downpour of rain will likely wash away any pre-treatments from roadways and a slight misting rain can also diminish the effectiveness of the brine.

At the onset of wintry weather, public works crews and highway departments can be found spreading actual salt on the roadways as an added safety measure.

Wagster explained that the city has to consign at least 100 tons of salt each year if it plans to purchase salt for the upcoming season.

Fortunately salt never “ruins” or “spoils,” so cities can have an extra supply on hand in the event of an unusually harsh winter.

According to Wagster, regardless of how much salt the city uses in one season, it is still required to pay for 80 percent of the salt amount ordered the prior summer.

“You just can’t take that chance by not putting it down. It’s all a guessing game, but I’d rather be safe for our citizens,” Wagster added.

wcp 1/20/11

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