Amherst focusing on main streets, intersections
AMHERST – A shortage of salt is causing trouble for Amherst Transportation and Public Works’ crews working to remove ice from town streets.
Amherst’s deputy chief administrative officer Jason MacDonald said an undisclosed problem at the salt mine in Pugwash is causing a backlog and causing users, like the Town of Amherst, to ration its supply.
“Right now we’re focusing on the main streets, the intersections and hills,” MacDonald said. “We’ll continue doing that as long as the shortage lasts.”
The Amherst area, like much of northern Nova Scotia and southern New Brunswick, was lashed by an ice storm over the weekend and Monday. The ice has made travelling treacherous and knocked out power to several thousand Cumberland County residents on Monday night.
Some of those outages, including around Oxford and Pugwash, continued into Tuesday morning.
In Amherst, many side streets have yet to be touched by the town since there isn’t enough salt to do so.
“We had two truckloads come in from the mine last night and they’re pretty much done. We’re applying the salt as it arrives, but for the next little while we’ll continue to focus on the priority areas,” MacDonald said. “We’re not sure how long it’s going to take.”
The town’s fallback plan is to get additional salt from the province, but it’s also impacted by the shortage at Pugwash and is rationing its own stocks.
It’s unknown what the problem is at the mine. Calls to mine in Pugwash were referred to Morton Salt in Chicago, where no answer was received.
While he admits it’s frustrating for travellers, MacDonald is hoping people will continue to be patient.
“It’s been a rough couple of days with a bunch of storms piled up. Patience is a virtue and hopefully this won’t impact people too much as they travel on Christmas,” MacDonald said. “We’re really doing our best to get through a tough situation. Hopefully we’ll either get some warmer weather or enough salt to get all the town streets done.”
Jim Boiduk of the Amherst office of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal said his operation is facing the same shortage that he believes is being caused by the mine winding down operations for the Christmas period.
Despite this, he said, TIR crews are out in full force clearing snow and ice from county highways and secondary roads.
“Everyone is out and working around the clock to clear the roads,” Boiduk said. “There’s enough latent salt on the road that it’s helping peel the ice off the roads. We’re using a 50-50 salt/sand mix on the roads and it appears to be working.”
Boiduk said department workers were prepared for this weather event, but sometimes it’s still hard to battle Mother Nature.
Another five centimetres of snow is forecast to fall in the Amherst overnight Tuesday and into Christmas Day. It could be worse, another major snowmaker is forecast to move south of the province and hit St. John’s, N.L. with 20 centimetres of snow tomorrow.