Plows and sand out, too cold for salt - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Plows and sand out, too cold for salt

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Last week Snow plows were out in full force.

Clearing snow off the streets and dumping 500 pounds of salt to melt the slush and ice that remained.

Now a week and another storm later, city plows are back on the streets, but because of the frigid temperatures, the salt is not.

"The chemical reaction of salt works up to 15 degrees. We need pavement temperatures to be around 15 degrees and when it gets below 15 degrees, salt doesn't work" says Madison Street Superintendent Al Shumacher.

The city will be waiting until sunrise to salt.

Anytime before that, officials say, would be a waste of resources.

At the same time, dumping salt on roads in freezing conditions could make roads even more dangerous.

"Because you're getting melting from the initial salt application. Then the colder temperatures freeze that over again and creates worse conditions," Schumacher says.

Despite being salt-less, city plows are loading up their truck beds with sand.

Dumping the stuff on busy intersections and hills offering vehicles some traction.

But because sand doesn't have any ice melting properties, they use very little of it.

Still, the city is looking into other options. Next year they will be spreading a different chemical on city streets. One they hope can beat both the ice and the cold.

"It's called 'Ice Slicer.' It's got a few other chemicals in it besides salt that makes it work in lower temperatures and the manufacturer says we can use it in lower temperatures like down to zero instead of the 15 degrees salt is used," Schumacher says.

Once the city's 2009 budget kicks in, Schumacher says his department plans on purchasing about 500 tons of the Ice Slicer. Although it cost more per ton than the salt solution they use now, the manufacturer says Ice Slicer uses two thirds less per mile.

Not all trucks will be supplied with the new chemical. The city says that's because they plan on only testing the product for now.

Schumacher says they don't need the temperature of the air to be above 15 degrees, as long as the road reaches that temperature.

He says once the sun comes out, it warms up the road, which then allows the salt to melt the ice.

27 News Meteorologist Bob Lindmeier expects those conditions to occur by late Wednesday morning or early afternoon.

City officials say majority of city streets will be plowed by 7:00 A.M. Wednesday.

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