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Different Styles For Clearing Snowy Roads In Different Counties, States

Allegan County, Mich. — Allegan County was one of the harder hit areas in West Michigan Wednesday as more lake effect snow fell over the area.

“This morning everything was just white,” said Perry Rankin, Allegan County road worker.

Rankin has been plowing snow in West Michigan for around 30 years.

“We’ll make one pass without treating, and as we clean the other side, we’ll treat it. So, that way we don’t scrape of material we just put on,” said Rankin.

He took us along on a journey on Allegan County roads as he cleared the way for drivers.

Larry Brown, Managing Director with the Allegan County Road Commission, said the county uses a 50/50 salt and sand mix.

“It seems to be a real good mixture. It just works well,” said Rankin.

The formula differs county by county in Michigan.

In Kent County, Road Commission Director Jerry Byrne  said on a typical day they use a 50/50 salt and sand mix with 50 gallons of calcium chloride.

The calcium chloride is stored in large tanks.

It’s  a chemical liquid mix that helps to activate salt in order to make it work faster and stick to the roads.

In Northern Michigan’s Emmet County, the mix is slightly different as well.

The state highway gets a 50/50 sand and salt mix.

There is also a six to one mixture of sand and salt that is used in certain situations so the sand doesn’t freeze in a pile.

Emmet County also incorporates “slag” into some of their mixes, which is a by-product of the East Jordan Iron Works.

It is made up of sand that went through a process at the iron works factory that has become very hard like glass.

It’s also very sharp and gritty and porous.

Brown said county and state leaders often use what’s available in the region and what works best with the climate.

“You use the most cost effective method that you can, and try to get the best results you can with that material,” said Brown.

In some counties in Michigan, they use a bio-degradable beet juice in a mixture that’s sprayed on their salt to cut down on costs.

The mixes differ state-by-state as well.

In Ohio, DOT workers there say they use a lot more brine.  That’s similar to salt water.

That mix doesn’t work as well in cold temperatures as Calcium Chloride liquid mixes which are commonly used in Western Michigan.

In some areas of Wisconsin, they are using cheese brine to spray along side of their salt.

It’s a liquid by-product created when making cheese.

In Pennsylvania, rather than sand, they use a lot of crushed limestone.

Brown said everyone has their challenges.

Here in West Michigan, it’s lake effect snow, which recently prompted county leaders to ask for a 28% increase in their budget to keep up with storms into 2014.

“I think we’ll be able to cover that, even with that nasty looking forecast for the next eight days,’ said Brown.

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