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Road Crews Have Tough Going with Packed Snow and Ice

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa- The storm may have ended two days ago, but eastern Iowa road crews are still trying hard to get packed snow and even ice off main streets.

Following a typical winter storm, the packed snow and ice left behind by snow plows would break up and melt away fairly quickly in the sunshine. But with the bitterly cold weather of the last two days, that melting just isn't happening fast enough.

Mike Duffy, a supervisor with the Cedar Rapids Streets Department, said crews just can't wait until it warms up enough to use the regular salt and sand to melt the packed snow. So crews have started adding calcium chloride to the road mix that's spread on streets. It's a more expensive chemical than road salt. But it won't blow away like a lot of salt did in the first day or so after the big storm. And it will work, to a limited degree, in below zero temperatures.

In addition, salt on roads doesn't really start to work unless it's 10 degrees or warm.

"With the temperatures, wind and conditions we're facing it's very difficult so that's why we're using that material—to give us some added melting power," Duffy said.

Duffy said another problem is direct sunlight doesn't hit every part of a road. That's another reason drivers will see clear areas of roadway and all of a sudden it's back to packed snow or ice.

Most road departments don't have a "bare pavement" policy for residential streets. It's simply too expensive to use chemicals everywhere. So drivers on side streets will just have to take it easy until Mother Nature does the melting.

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