Winter Road Preps: The Science Behind Salt Brine

11:56 PM, Jan 27, 2014   |    comments
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ALAMANCE COUNTY, N.C. -- Salt and water. That's all road workers have to work with ahead of a snow threat.

They make a mixture known as brine. It's cheap to make, but so effective, it could save your life.

Alamance County keeps 16,000 gallons of brine on a regular basis. It's one of several tools they use to prevent car wrecks in the snow.

Truck by truck, Alamance County is stocking their fleet.

"We have all of our snow equipment on all of our trucks ready to go,"  said Alamance County NC DOT Maintenance Engineer Nanette Fogleman. "We have our supply of salt ready to go."

Up to 300 tons of their salt supply might be needed if the snow accumulates. In the meantime, they're using it to make salt brine. The murky solution doesn't look like much, but it works. With 23% salt, the mixture is effective even if we hit four degrees below zero.

"It looks like water, said Fogleman. "When it dries, you end up with a salt residue that's on your road. When that snow hits it, it reactivates that salt so it will help keep that bond from forming with the ice and roadway."

The brine doesn't prevent ice, but it delays the ice from forming for about 30 minutes. "It does give us some additional time to get our equipment and our personnel out there to deal with the accumulation."

And it's cheap to make, only about 15 cents per gallon. An easy recipe to make, just in case. "We have everything we need to get going, just need the snow," said Fogleman.

Alamance County road crews say they don't plan to use the brine this time, but that doesn't mean it'll go unused. Orange County used some of Alamance's supply to spread on their part of Interstate 85 and 40.

Alamance County road crews say their chances of snow accumulation are not great enough to spread the brine.

It takes 8 gallons of brine to treat one mile of highway.

WFMY News 2

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