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Regional salt shortage affecting Aurora’s snow plowing

AURORA — The “one-two punch” of this winter’s above average snowfall and below average temperatures are creating challenges for Aurora’s street maintenance crews as they deal with a regional shortage of salt, officials announced late Tuesday.

With several days of bitter cold temperatures and additional snow in the forecast, officials are alerting residents that the use of salt for the foreseeable future will be focused on primary streets with very conservative salting taking place in residential areas, said Aurora spokesman Dan Ferrelli. There is enough salt on hand for the immediate future but the current forecast will obviously further impact salt supplies, city officials sad Tuesday.

In the event of more snow, residential streets are very likely to remain snow covered, but they will be drivable, according to officials. Motorists are advised to use extra caution, Ferrelli said.

At least one round of snow is expected to hit Aurora Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service’s Romeoville office. Meteorologist Richard Castro said lows will dip into negative digits, with Wednesday highs reaching the mid teens. A half-inch to 1-inch of snow is predicted, he said.

“We’re looking at light accumulations, but with wind picking up, blowing snow could become an issue,” Castro said.

Thursday’s forecast calls for very cold temperatures again, with lows near -10 and highs in the single digits. There is potential for snow systems to hit the region on Friday and Sunday, too, Castro said.

When temperatures reach below 20 degrees, road salt is less effective at melting snow and ice.

Aurora, like many municipalities, receives salt through the Illinois Joint Purchasing Program. Supplies throughout the state are at low levels resulting in shortages of road salt across the Northern Illinois region.

ThecCity has already responded to 25 “snow events” so far this year, according to Ferrelli. At this time last year, city crews responded to four snow events and in the 2011-2012 season, six events had been addressed to date. Approximately 13,500 tons of salt have been used so far which is close to the average amount of salt used during an entire season.

Drivers are reminded to slow down and allow extra space between vehicles when driving in winter weather and be extra cautious at intersections and on hills and bridges, Ferrelli said. They are also urged to be especially careful when interacting with snow plows, staying a minimum of 75 feet behind the trucks and never attempting to pass them. Even where roads appear to be wet, drivers need to be mindful of “black ice” which causes roadways to be slick.

Aurora officials are also reminding residents of the city’s snowfall ordinance which was enacted to assure safe and effective snow plowing. It dictates the ticketing and possible towing of any vehicle parked on a public street or alley during or after a snowfall of two inches or more. Failure to comply can lead to a ticket and vehicle tow that will cost a minimum of $150, plus applicable storage and release fees, depending on the time of the infraction. City streets and alleyways are not considered plowed until the lane of traffic nearest the curb has been cleared.

The city is responsible for clearing 2,100 lane miles of roads during winter storms.



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