Kent bundles up for frosty weather

Will Schertz

Students outside the Student Center yesterday brave the recent temperature drop. DAVID ANTHONY RANUCCI | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: John Proppe

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas, and it might start looking like it too.

Following a series of unusually warm days last week, temperatures in the city dropped to less than 30 degrees since Friday.

Weather in recent weeks has made life easier for employees of the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), who as of yet have not had to contend with snow and ice clean-up.

“It’s been nice,” said Mike Rahach, Portage County Manager for ODOT. “We have four salt (storage) domes in the county with just over 16,000 tons of salt. Last year we didn’t have to refill any of them.”

Last year also saw a very slow start to winter, with very little snow in October and November. According to the National Weather Service Web site, snow fall for the entire season was below average, ranging from 40 to 50 inches in areas of Northeast Ohio outside the snow belt and only 20 to 30 inches for many other parts of the state.

Though recent weather might seem indicative of another mild winter, ODOT is not taking its recent luck for granted.

“You never know what you’re going to get, so we always plan for the worst,” Rahach said.

According to Maureen Bachman, ODOT Public Information Officer for district four, Portage county currently has 15 salt trucks and 23 full-time drivers, as well as 30 substitutes.

Rahach said ODOT is only responsible for taking care of highway roads, while cities and other municipalities are responsible for keeping their own roads cleared of snow and ice.

Gene Roberts, Kent Public Service Director, said the city has been making preparations since mid-summer, having purchased two two-and-a-half ton hook-lift tow trucks totaling about $140,000.

Roberts said that Kent typically requires $25,000 to $50,000 worth of road salt over the course of winter, but the city has not had to restock its supply from last year either.

Both ODOT and the city of Kent are combining road salt with other effective products to help melt ice. One that they have been using for several years is brine, which Bachman said is more cost effective and environmentally friendly.

ODOT and Kent are also experimenting with mixtures of liquid calcium chloride and sodium chloride (table salt) which act as pre-wetting agents that help rock salt to more effectively melt ice at colder temperatures.

Bachman said that Summit County will be a pilot for a new product that could make its way to Portage County called Geo Melt, a sugar beet molasses product that is mixed with salt.

“Calcium chloride is effective and less expensive than the Geo Melt, but it’s downside is that calcium draws moisture, which means that it dilutes out faster.”

Bachman said that the Geo Melt adheres better to the road than brine does.

“It will reduce the number of times a truck will need to cover the route, saving labor and fuel costs,” she said.

Contact public affairs reporter Will Schertz at [email protected].