Can we talk? (Go elsewhere if you don’t want to read a[nother] taaarrrred old rant)

I want to talk about salt. I don’t mean table salt. I mean the salt that we put on our roads and sidewalks during the bleak midwinter up here in the Great White North. Because I keep running into people (intelligent people who normally think for themselves) who try to tell me that “salt doesn’t work when it gets too cold.” Well. I think there is some truth in that. But I also think that people are mis-translating something they hear on the news and applying it to their own snow and ICE clearing strategies.

I think it’s true that salt does not melt ice when the temperatures get low enough. I dunno how cold is “too cold” but I think we’re talking about single digit temperatures and below. And it often gets that cold around here. Eet eez veenter and zees eez Meeecheeegan, roight? But. For the most part this whole “salt doesn’t melt ice” thing refers to the challenges of clearing our streets and freeways of black ice. As much as I complain about what I consider the less-than-perfect job our city does about clearing the streets, I know that there are difficult challenges, especially when it comes to ice. I know that even if there were enough trucks that the city could plow/salt every single road in the area within hours of the latest snowfall, slippery conditions can occur just about anywhere for an infinite number of reasons. Micro-climates anyone? Slow down, folks!

That said, I hate when somebody doesn’t use salt on their own sidewalk just because they heard on the radio that it doesn’t work when the temperature gets below 10 or whatever it is. Because the point is not to wait until ice has formed and frozen solid before putting out the salt. The point is that when it snows, if you put the salt down right after you have shoveled, it will *prevent* ice from forming! Even when there is a thaw and the snow on either side of the sidewalk melts across it in a beautiful smooth sheet of water. Guess what? If you have NOT put down salt, that sheet of water will freeze into a loverly little ice rink. And then, chances are, a little bit of snow (say an inch or maybe even two) will fall and yer favo-rite blahgger will be galumphing along at 0-skunk-30 and she’ll get to your sidewalk and she won’t be able to SEE that there is an ice rink under the beautiful little dusting of snow on your sidewalk. Her feet will hit your loverly little sheet of ice and instantaneously slide out from under her and before she can even process what is happening, she’ll be flat on her back. On your sidewalk. Is that what you want?

Okay. That did happen to me earlier in the winter. I am made of steel and I have a hard head and I was okay. It did not happen to me this morning. But, depending on how people have “cleared” their sidewalks during the last couple weeks, the sidewalks provided a continually and randomly changing surface this morning, after the latest little snowfall of an inch or so accumulation. I had my YakTrax on this morning and I am pretty confident with them but I encountered a couple of sidewalks that were so icy that I slid a little bit, even with the YakTrax.

Planet Ann Arbor residents, here is the policy. It stipulates that salt must be used and even provides a free bucket of salt (and sand, which may be a better alternative…) for residents who can go pick it up. It also provides assistance for elderly and disabled people.

Oh. And WHAT is up with using a blasted snowblower when the snow accumulation is less than an inch? Fer kee-reist, The Old Coot spent his whole life in the Yooperland and he did not purchase a snowblower until he was 75 years old! When I was a kid (and had to walk uphill five miles through four feet of snow both to and from school every day) and there was a snowstorm (and I am talking waaaayyy more than one sniggly little inch), it was all hands on deck with the shovels! Even Tigger, our dog!

4 Responses to “Can we talk? (Go elsewhere if you don’t want to read a[nother] taaarrrred old rant)”

  1. isa Says:

    Nice picture!

  2. Margaret Says:

    It’s just an excuse not to salt, in my opinion. I’ve never had to worry about it. 🙂

  3. Kathy Farnell Says:

    Salt may not always melt the ice but it can at least help the “ice rink” to be a little less slippery. Sand can also help create a non slip surface. Problem can be with early morning walkers (like yourself) that some people don’t get out that early to salt or sand their sidewalks. When I had a sidewalk in Troy. I did not get out there until at least 7:30 and sometimes not until after the kids were at school – 8:30 – 9:00 AM or so. At least most of us in the neighborhood did our best to keep the sidewalks non-slip.

  4. Jay Says:

    5 miles? That school yard was a lot bigger than I thought. The 4 feet of snow – that I would believe.