Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Dan Reed
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Salt stockpile for County roads is down


Photo provided by Lila Kaski Schwoch

Oshkosh County snowplow stuck on the Automba Road CR 6 not too far from Krigsholm Road in 1941.

This has been one of our old style winters with lots of snow and at times high winds. Locals complain of the inconvenience of it all – slippery roads, poor snow plow service, and high heating bills from the sub-temperatures.

Yet we can go back to other winters such as the winter of 1940-41 and the famous Armistice Day storm. In this picture from Lila Kaski Schwoch of Barnum the County snow removal trucks of the period were a powerful but slow Oshkosh truck with cables running the front plow blade and the wing. Snow would be so high that the truck would get stuck and the two operators had to hand-shovel themselves out of the drifted snow.

Some areas of the County were snowed in for a week to ten days and could only get supplies by skies or snowshoes. Locals would go to visit their neighbors by following along the crest of the snowbanks with their gloved hand holding onto the telephone line.

A long hard winter is the talk of the locals especially after two days of high winds caused by a major winter storm that barely missed our area last week. An inch, perhaps two of snow driven by the winds, drifted roads in the rural and urban areas with drifts almost four feet high. Heavy snow fall in February, breaking records as old as 80 years, has made the snow depth in the deep woods between four and five feet.

County plows and graders have been out more than usual moving snow or treating highways during ice storms. County Engineer Jin Yeene Neumann reported, "The severity of the winter has created a salt shortage in the region. We have received 80% of our salt deliveries from our supplier in Duluth and it is unknown if we will get the last shipment."

Normally road salt is mixed with fine sand to spread on the local roads. For some time less salt has been mixed with the sand used on the roads to reduce salt run off into our rivers and streams. For some time studies have shown that road salt affects our region's water.

Rick Norgaard, County road foreman, commented in a phone interview, "It is now late winter and with a little bit of luck we will have enough salt for this season. Sand only provides grit for traction. Icy roads are only handled by salt and the sun."

What is the solution if the salt reserve is used up? Neumann said, "We have one option – use all sand. One impact of this shortage is that next year I suspect the bid prices on salt will rise."


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