From slick to salty

Published 8:45 am Thursday, January 18, 2018

Every winter season, history seems to repeat itself. Snowy and icy weather seems to take much of the country off-guard, leading to hazardous road conditions, making people late for work, fender benders and more severe vehicle wrecks, and also causing schools and businesses to either go on delay or close outright.

Bell County has been going through its winter trials the past week, with inclement weather leading to wrecks and closings.

It’s not all dire, however. There is one simple weapon that everyone uses to get a leg up over the snow and ice — salt. Many, from cities to the individual, use salt to melt snow away on traveling paths and to create safe passage. Salt is such a staple of coping with the cold weather months that it’s easy to take advantage of its history. Everything in our society has a history, a precedent — salt is no different.

The salt that is sprayed on roads and thrown on driveways every winter is the same kind of salt as the stuff on your dining room table. The only difference is, according to an article published at nationalgeographic.com, road salt (or rock salt) isn’t ground up and given additives like iodine to make it the common table salt. Rock salt is mined from systems that are essentially dried up, millenia-old seas.

Also according to the National Geographic article, Detroit has a massive deposit of rock salt under it and it was discovered in the mid 1890s. Due to this being a local resource, Detroit was the first city to salt its roads. This occurred in 1940. Detroit’s salt mine is still open today.

For the winter months, a specific amount of salt is stored in truck and under tarps for protection. If more salt is needed, it is ordered. If salt is in particularly high demand, or if there is a shortage, it could become very pricey to keep the roads salted.

A study cited in the National Geographic article states that salt truly is a life saver when it comes to the harsh winter weather. The study stated that the use of salt reduced crashes by 88 percent, injuries by 85 percent and accident costs by 85 percent.

Even the most mundane and common everyday items and procedures people take for granted to make everyday life a little easier has a story behind it, and rock salt is no different.

Information for this article was found at https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/02/140212-road-salt-shortages-melting-ice-snow-science/.