Vancouver’s offer of free road salt creates a frenzy in B.C.

The City of Vancouver has been keeping residents up to date on the salt crisis on its Twitter page.
The City of Vancouver has been keeping residents up to date on the salt crisis on its Twitter page. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Canadians are in the midst of a salt crisis that has spilled across the U.S. border into Bellingham.

The region’s frigid weather has iced over so many roads and sidewalks in Vancouver, B.C., that city officials there on Wednesday offered a free bucket of road salt to residents, available at 10 local fire halls. But the offer led some people to take more than they were allotted – and others reportedly sneaked in overnight to shovel what some are now calling the “white gold” off the piles (though the mix of salt and sand is more brownish in color).

How bad was it? A one-ton pile of deicing salt dropped at one fire station Thursday morning was gone within 30 minutes, according to media reports.

The free salt giveaway has created a media frenzy and inspired Twitter hashtags like #SaltCrisis and #SaltGate.

The shortage has flooded some Bellingham stores with calls from anxious Canadians, willing to cross the border to get their hands on some road salt. Two Fred Meyer stores in Bellingham reportedly have sold out of the the precious stuff.

Yet some in Vancouver say the free salt giveaway came too late for many streets and led to familiar questions about the city’s snow and ice-removal strategies, according to CTV Vancouver. A Vancouver city counclwoman has called for an inquiry into the salt giveaway.

“The sidewalks in front of our house are clear, but the side streets are just so bad,” said Jenny Puterman, who lives in a neighborhood with some steep streets, in an interview with The Globe and Mail.

Glen Lougheed told the Vancouver Sun he stood in line for an hour Wednesday morning but left empty handed when the salt ran out. He want back that afternoon and was able to fiull his bucket.

“We have a lot of old, retired people in the neighborhood and we want to keep the sidewalks safe,” Lougheed said. “It feels like old-school Russia standing here in a big lineup for supplies.”

And making matters worse – up to five centimeters of snow (about 2 inches in America) are forecast for Thursday and Friday in metro Vancouver.