But salt doesn’t always work. In fact, there are a few times during the year road crews will stop spreading salt and will start using sand. Of course, the switch only goes so far. The roads are still in rough traveling shape, because no matter how much sand is dispersed, the ice is always present.
So why does salt not always work? Well, salt doesn’t melt ice through some kind of special chemical reaction. Salt, or sodium chloride as it’s known as a chemical compound, lowers the freezing point of water, from 32°F to near 0°F. When tossed onto ice, the melting process begins immediately. At first, a layer of water forms around the salt crystals. Over time, the salt slowly dissolves into the water, creating a saltwater solution. This increases the rate of melting. In other words, once you spread salt, the process just kind of snowballs until the ice is gone.
There are a few products for sale that lower the freezing point of water colder than 0F. Some communities and private organizations have used these products, and there’s been a lot of success. However, it you’re a county or city on a tight budget, the goal is the most bang for your buck. You never know how much snow will fall, or if old man winter will take a spring vacation to the Midwest.
So, when you head out and the temperture is below zero, especially after a snow storm, know that there’s going to be a lot of ice on the roads. Thankfully, the ice won’t be as slippery compared to when it’s warmer outside. That’s a topic for another blog post coming up later this winter.
Check out this video: Salt vs. Bitter-cold. A blast from the past, from my first time working at WQOW! This story aired on January 18, 2008. The expertise is provided by Mike Barnhardt, Street Maintenance Manager, now retired. I was only four months on the job…you’ll notice I may be a little green yet! But the point remains the same.
Thanks for reading and have a great weekend! Stay tuned for more from Beyond the Forecast…
This post was written by Nick Grunseth on January 13, 2012