The Northeast may have had its fun mocking the South's recent descent into chaos in the face of snow, but now it's our turn to fall apart. This newest storm has shut down I-84—one of the region's biggest highways—and crippled countless other roads. The culprit? We're running out of salt.
Beginning last night, snow has been hitting the northeastern U.S. hard, leaving up to a foot snow in some parts of New England. Connecticut's non-essential workers have been instructed to stay home, and Chris Christie declared New Jersey to be in an official state of emergency. But the effects of this storm are so much worse than previous not because of how much snow there is. Instead, according to the New Jersey Department of Transportation, it's because this brutal winter has depleted the region's salt reserves.
In a phone call with Gizmodo, Joe Dee, a New Jersey DOT spokesman explained that "it's been a very storm-filled winter, not only here but in the Midwest and New England, too. So there's quite a few states with transportation agencies facing dwindling supplies right now. We've just been using it at a faster rate than it's able to be replenished."
Though the official word may be that demand is simply overwhelming an already limited supply, others believe there may be more to it. In The Jersey Tomato Press, Diane Lilli cites one (anonymous) eyewitness who was given a much more disconcerting response to his request for salt:
"There were 150 -200 big trucks, filled with the salt, our salt," he said, obviously upset. "I asked for salt, and the guy there told me they were too low, and that it was there, on those trucks, headed to Met Life stadium for the Super Bowl."
Lilli goes on to refer back to a December 18 press conference at Met Life Stadium in which officials discussed the extent of their snow preparedness. Lilli writes that the New Jersey DOT Deputy Commissioner Joseph Mrozek "proudly said" that the state had a huge amount of salt in storage—60,000 tons worth, more specifically.:
When asked about a relation between the salt shortage and the Met Life Stadium Super Bowl reserves, Dee told Gizmodo:
Of course [Met Life Stadium] needs salt for their parking lots and roadways leading out of the sports complex. That's something they do every year—purchasing supplies for their needs. But we have salt domes all over the state that we fill in the beginning of he year; vendors bring the salt out to us on scheduled deliveries. It's an established process.
In terms of Met Life Stadium having some vast supply of salt, I'm not aware that that's necessarily true. There isn't some huge supply just sitting there.
While Met Life Stadium routinely stores road salt, it'd be totally understandable to take extra precautions this time; after all, it's not every year Jersey gets to host the Super Bowl. Prior to the Super Bowl, The Advertiser News wrote:
Since New Jersey is hosting the game this year at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, the Road Department has designated a bulk of the state's salt supplies to roads surrounding the stadium in case of a snow storm that weekend, causing slower reactions to snowstorms in the township.
We've reached out to Met Life Stadium for comment and will update as soon as we hear back.
Whether the salt shortage is due to Super Bowl stockpiling or just slow restocking, one thing is for certain: wherever that salt is, we need it—and soon. [The Jersey Tomato Press, Reuters]
Image: Shutterstock/Peter Gudella