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Winter weather | What is brine and why is it important?

Crews said laying down brine prior to incoming winter weather can help speed up the melting process and make it easier to clean roads.

OLDHAM COUNTY, Ky. — Jonathan Donner and Jason Topping have been keeping Kentucky roads safe for a combined 36 years.

"It's a lot of hours," Topping said. "It always could be worse," the more seasoned Donner added. 

They were out last week laying down a brine on the roads, before the Jan. 6 snowstorm. 

The two work for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet in Oldham County. 

Between retirements and a pandemic, their team dwindled from 11 workers to five. That's why they're only brining problem areas and bridges this year. 

A brine is a mixture of salt and water that melts ice and snow on the roadways.

"It buys us a little extra time for real big emergencies and stuff like that," Topping said. "It starts the melting process while we're getting out there on our routes."

Another thing brine does is help keep crash numbers from rising. Kentucky State Police reported nearly 2,000 crashes on ice-covered roadways in 2021, that's more than double the previous year. But not more than the recent record just shy of 3,000 crashes in 2018.

The state spends millions on prevention like brine, salt and employees every year. 

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet's 2020 Operations Management System Report shows snow prep and anti-icing cost over $2 million dollars. The total cost of snow and ice for the 2019-2020 winter was over 20 million.

► Contact reporter Tom Lally at TLally@whas11.com or on Facebook or Twitter.

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