I came back from a trip to Upstate New York to find a skating rink for a driveway. It’s a northeast thing. February snow quickly turns to concrete when you add freezing rain on top of it and give it a night to set in. The key is to be diligent about cleaning the driveway, deck or other surfaces that you actually want to use. But when you travel sometimes the weather gets ahead of you. So when you’re greeted by ice, you turn to rock salt. Salt changes the melting point of ice in ways I’ve chosen not to be qualified to answer.
Bags of rock salt are a must when you have constant freeze/thaw conditions. With a driveway completely coated in ice, I had to bring in the heavy artillery and sprinkled 120 pounds of salt on the driveway. Salt, scrape off what you can, repeat. Salt is tough on the pavement and nearby plants, and it’s equally tough on any metal it contacts. It’s not optimal for maintaining a pristine environment. But it’s a necessary evil in the northeast, especially at times like these. That I had to use three bags of salt is insane, but it’s indicative of just how much ice was on the driveway.
Much of the rock salt used on roads and driveways like mine comes from Upstate New York. Syracuse is nicknamed the salt city, and there are salt mines all through the area. It’s an industry that took off in the 1800’s, and remains one of the largest exports from Upstate New York. People that live in that area know all about it, and I’d heard about one of the salt mines from a local who told me about the Cargill Mine that run underneath Cayuga Lake in Lansing, NY. This and other mines were highlighted a couple of years ago when 17 miners had to be rescued when an elevator failed.
Salt mines tap into the ancient salt deposits left from Ohio to New York. To think of Upstate New York or Ohio as the bottom of the ocean 450 million years ago shrinks the ego down to size. Our world is both much smaller and much larger than we believe. But our lifetimes on this earth is infinitesimal when you think about the time it took for these salt deposits to form. So I confess I don’t generally think about salt, but I’ve come to appreciate it for more than the job it does on my driveway. The humble rock salt in turn has humbled me.