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Where There's Snow, There's Salt — And D.C. Has Used Plenty Of It

D.C. has used 35,000 tons of road salt this winter, but it has kept enough on-hand for any coming snowfall.
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D.C. has used 35,000 tons of road salt this winter, but it has kept enough on-hand for any coming snowfall.

After a couple years of underwhelming winter weather, this season has seen plenty of snow return to the region, so much so that D.C. officials report having worked through most of the salt supply.

The city started the snow season with 38,000 tons of road salt on hand, and has used 35,000 tons so far on the city's 1,145 miles of roads, according to the D.C. Department of Public Works.

"We have been able to keep our salt supply in pretty good order by constantly replenishing it," says department spokeswoman Linda Grant, noting that with a recent delivery the city has 15,000 tons of salt to work with. (D.C. also pre-treats roads with beet juice.)

That puts D.C. ahead of many cities further north, which as NPR reported this week have been struggling to replenish salt stocks after a series of repeated storms.

In terms of snowfall and spending, the 2013-14 winter is a turnaround after two years of little snow. In 2011-12, only 1.2 inches of the white stuff hit the ground in D.C.; the next year it was 2.5 inches.

While the numbers haven't yet been crunched, city officials estimate that they'll exceed the $6.2 million set aside annually for snow removal, Grant says.

Still, D.C. officials can be thankful that this winter hasn't turned into a repeat of 2009-10, when 70 inches of snow fell, costing the city $25 million in snow removal costs. That year, D.C. plows moved close to 5.3 million tons of snow; last year, it was a paltry 218,000 tons.

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