Texas' supply of de-icer dwindles as drivers brace for more storms

| 1/18/2007

Winter weather expected this weekend is likely to further deplete the Texas Department of Transportation's dwindling supply of de-icing compounds.

Four winter storms have depleted reserves of salt and magnesium chloride, leaving the state's 25 transportation districts to shuffle and share the supplies of fluid and granular mixes it uses to keep moisture from freezing on highways, said Mike Cox, a spokesman with the Texas Department of Transportation.

Last weekend's storm affected half of the state, a rarity for the second-largest state in the union, Cox said.

"It's hard to plan for that sort of thing - when we get a really bad cold snap it usually doesn't last but 24 hours or so," Cox said. "This one has lasted for several days."

Counties in northern and west Texas are used to winter weather, but a 14-county district around the state's panhandle spent about $450,000 for de-icer compound because of two storms this winter, said Paul Braun, a spokesman for the transportation department's Amarillo district.

Shipments for salt and magnesium chloride have been delayed because surrounding states Oklahoma, Colorado, New Mexico and Kansas have been hit by storms as well and use the same supplier of materials - Southwest Envirotech of Richardson, TX, Braun said.

Braun said he's heard truckers say that Texas are among the nation's best states at clearing roads, though some were stuck near Amarillo during this week's winter weather.

Transportation workers have repeated a mantra about their role in keeping traffic on the state's highways flowing, Braun said.

"We will rest when they are open," Braun said.

- By Charlie Morasch, staff writer