In the Des Moines suburb of Ankeny, Iowa, a winter storm dumped 4 inches of snow Thursday. Along with added sleet and ice, the plows and salt trucks have been out in full force.
Al Olson, Ankeny's public works administrator, has found a culinary — yes, culinary — solution to the problem.
"We've kind of spiced up our operation a little bit," Olson tells NPR's Melissa Block. "We were fortunate enough last Friday to get 9 tons of garlic salt from Tone's Spices. And as a result of that, they gave us a call and we mixed it in with our road salt. And as we speak, we are applying it on the roads in Ankeny."
Olson says that the excess salt from Tone's was just outdated. "So rather than landfilling the product, they gave us a call," he says. The garlic salt is a variety of sea salt, which many communities use in the winter for snow and ice control on city streets.
"We thought from a product standpoint, salt's salt," Olson says. "So we took it upon ourselves to go ahead and send a couple trailers over to Tone's Spices to pick up the product. The garlic is a bonus. It's been a lot of fun."
With regard to the garlic smell, "we were actually kind of tired of it the first couple days," Olson says. And most of the supply has already been used, as the city puts down between 100 and 150 tons of salt after a storm.
"If you use a clove of garlic in your home and you're making spaghetti, and you know how that kind of fills the air with a garlic smell? Imagine 9 tons of it," Olson says. "Yes, it can make your eyes water a little bit, and everybody has a different reaction to it."
But, he says, the city residents are used to smells wafting from Tone's factories. "There are times Tone's may be processing a particular spice, and you can smell cinnamon and some of those flavors. And now it's on the road."