As yet another winter storm bore down on the mid-Atlantic states yesterday, Carroll highway officials said they were running out of road salt.
Several municipalities and Carroll County Public Schools also faced shortages because they depend upon the county for their salt supply.
"We're very low on salt," Benton Watson, chief of the Carroll County Bureau of Roads Operations, said yesterday. He estimated the county's remaining supply at about 700 tons of salt.
"We have about enough to load our trucks one time," he said. "It isn't enough for one storm -- one average storm."
Mr. Watson said the whole East Coast is straining to find salt because of the demand caused by last week's storms.
Carroll County's salt comes from salt mines in New York, via the Port of Baltimore, he said. The county has been receiving small deliveries of 150 tons to 200 tons a day, but at this rate it will take a while to replenish county stocks.
In the meantime, Mr. Watson said, the county will be dispatching trucks loaded with a mixture of anti-skid grit and a small amount of salt.
Yesterday afternoon, the National Weather Service predicted periods of rain, freezing rain, sleet and snow through tomorrow morning.
"It's all going to depend on what the storm does," Mr. Watson said.
He said if the precipitation falls as snow, it can be plowed and should present little trouble.
But if it falls as freezing rain, he said, the county could face an ice problem similar to what happened last week.
Last week, the problem wasn't a salt shortage but temperatures low that salt wouldn't melt the ice.
This time, Mr. Watson said, because the county will use more grit than salt, it will take longer for any ice to clear after the storm ends.
He said the county warned school officials and municipalities that get salt from the county yesterday that no more salt would be available until the county replenishes its supply.
"Salt prices, I'm sure, will be going up," he said, but the price is locked in for salt the county has already ordered. Whether that salt will last the rest of the year will depend on Mother Nature, he said.
"If we have three more weeks like we've had," he said, "we're in trouble."
State Highway Administration spokeswoman Valerie Burnette said the highway district that includes Frederick, Howard and Carroll counties has enough salt left to continue emergency operations through the expected storm.
Westminster Street Superintendent Donald Gross said yesterday, "We are OK for this storm."
Unless temperatures drop below about 25 degrees, he said, "With the material we've got, we can keep our roads clean."
So far this season, Mr. Gross said, the city has used more than 1,200 tons of salt, which is mixed with grit before it is spread. Usually, he said, Westminster uses only about 800 tons of salt in a year.
Taneytown depends on the county for its salt supply, Town Clerk/Treasurer Linda Hess said yesterday. The town had only one pickup truck load of salt left, she said -- enough to last possibly one day.
New Windsor Mayor Jack A. Gullo Jr. said his town gets its salt from the county but added, "I don't think we're going to have a problem."
He said New Windsor has some salt left over from last week's storms. Manchester Town Manager Terry Short said his town has been trying unsuccessfully to locate additional salt. However, he said, "We feel we have enough for another good-sized snow."