Dickinson & Iron County Road Commissions use significantly more salt for freezing rain than normal snowfall

Due to warmer than normal temperatures in January, road commissions are using more salt for freezing rain than anticipated.
Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 6:55 PM EST
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DICKINSON & IRON COUNTIES, Mich. (WLUC) - January has been unseasonably warm in the southern U.P. Because of that, many road commissions have been clearing lots of freezing rain.

Road crews are still clearing snow across the southern U.P. Thursday’s snowfall comes after several freezing rainstorms, which have been difficult for road commissions to clear.

“The hardest part with conditions like this is when you get a freezing rain event, the amount of material salt you need to use to clear the roads is dramatically more than a snow event like today,” said James Harris, Dickinson County Road Commission managing director.

In December alone, the Dickinson County Road Commission used 2,470 tons of salt and 2,824 gallons of diesel fuel, which combined to cost $200,876. Harris said when the precipitation melts during the day during warm weather and then freezes overnight when it cools, it creates extra work for crews.

“It’s a repeating process,” Harris said. “It freezes, and you get it cleared. It refreezes, then you get it cleared.”

Another concern is damage to roads. Crews carefully monitor conditions if road restrictions need to be applied.

“If these kinds of conditions continue, I would say road restrictions could be put on,” said Doug Tomasoski, Iron County Road Commission superintendent and managing engineer. “Maybe for only a week or two but a little bit earlier than normal.”

Tomasoski said he already noticed a few potholes in Iron County, and the commission will closely study the weather going forward.

Harris said seasonal restrictions in Dickinson County have been placed in late February only five times in the last 20 years. Typically, road restrictions begin the second week of March.

“These freezing rainstorms have lessened the amount of salt we will have available for the rest of the year,” Harris said. “It is not to a point where we are in a bind, yet.”

Harris said crews started around 4 a.m. Thursday, and the MDOT Night Patrol continued into the evening.