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Demand For Salt Creates 'Bottleneck' Situation At Cargill

Bill Rinehart

A polar vortex hit parts of the country at the beginning of February causing, in some places, unprecedented low temperatures and snow. The Tri-State area dodged most of those record-breaking cold temperatures, but has still been hit with back-to-back snow storms. It's caused delays in the delivery of salt for roadways.

Hamilton County gets its salt from Cargill to treat county roads. County Engineer Eric Beck says they're waiting on a salt delivery but have enough to get the area through a few more storms. He says during the snow storm Tuesday and Wednesday, the county used about 1,600 tons of salt.

"If we have 4,000 tons, we're good for three big storms. Obviously, it looks like what we'll be having in the next week is just some refreeze. So you know, we don't need to salt everything. It'll be just ice spots," he said.

Christine Rupert, managing director at Cargill Road Safety, says the company still has plenty of product to deliver but it'll take some time to load product onto trucks because of the influx in demand for additional salt throughout the area.

"When all of those orders happen all at one time, it just creates a bottleneck at the terminal. And so therefore, what we're doing is separating out orders and prioritizing carriers to be able to get through those orders to the customers," she said.

This is different from other years when major snow storms are usually scattered throughout the winter season. The back-to-back storms are what caused the jam at Cargill. She says she's not sure how delayed the orders will be because it varies for each customer.

"So February has been very relentless. Historically, we might have seen storms come and go. And, historically, we'll see it between November through March. But this year, it's hit us really hard in February," she said.

But Rupert added Cargill recommends municipalities keep as much salt on hand as possible to avoid any "need it now" situations.

Beck said, "We have deliveries all winter long as our dome goes down. We order it. We don't wait until we get to the bottom of the dome."

He said despite the delays, crews are still plowing and salting roadways as fast as possible. He asks for people's patience and caution to allow the crews to work quickly and safely.

Correction: Christine Rupert's name was intiially misspelled in this article. 

Jolene Almendarez is the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants who came to San Antonio in the 1960s. She was raised in a military family and has always called the city home. She studied journalism at San Antonio College and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism and Public Communications from the University of Alaska Anchorage. She's been a reporter in San Antonio and Castroville, Texas, and in Syracuse and Ithaca, New York.