Can You Salt Away All That Snow And Ice?

by Chris Tognotti

If you're living in a number of major cities along the east coast right now ― Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, D.C. and New York City among them ― you're being faced with a pretty grisly weather conditions. Thanks to the powerful Winter Storm Jonas (so named by The Weather Channel) that swept through parts of the south and into the northeast, blizzards are bringing record-setting snowfalls, and you know what that means: tons and tons of cruel, biting snow. So maybe you're wondering right now: does salt melt snow?

First of all, yes! Salting ice and snow can induce it to melt, and it's a time-honored method of clearing up the snow pack from streets, sidewalks, driveways, and porches. Although depending on just how cold it is, it's no guarantee ― the way the salt melts the snow is by lowering the freezing temperature of water.

In other words, if you're in some intensely frigid conditions, it might not work. The salt only brings the freezing temperature down to 15 degree Fahrenheit (that's nine degrees below zero in Celsius, for any metric people out there). If the temperature is still below that level, all you'll have is a salty, snowy mess on your hands.


There's no mistaking why you might be wondering about this ― snowfall is positively blanketing swaths of the northeast and mid-atlantic right now. As The Weather Channel details, places as far south as Norfolk, Virginia and as far north as Boston, Massachusetts will be seeing more snow through Saturday night. Some of the most inundated places, however, have reportedly been in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, with reports of 30+ and 40+ inches of snowfall in some places.

That's exactly the kind of situation that might call for a salting here or there, but it's worth being cautious ― unless you made extremely proactive plans to stock up ahead of time, it's unlikely that you'd have as much salt as you'd want or need, and it might not be safe or feasible to buy any until the storms have already passed. In other words, be sure to exercise your best judgement ― setting aside whether you could dry things up around your place with some salt, you can also just wait things out for now.

Luckily for everyone in the thick of it, that wait shouldn't be too long. The best available projections suggest that Winter Storm Jonas will be moving out over the Atlantic Ocean by the end of Sunday. With any luck, things will get a lot easier to deal with after that.