On Wednesday, as state and local roads crews were bracing for one of the Charleston area's worst winter storms on record, Department of Transportation officials learned that their ship had come in.
The bulk freighter Genco Ocean had just arrived from Italy at a North Charleston pier, carrying 40 million pounds of animal-feed-grade salt.
That's the same salt that's used to melt ice and clear winter roads in Europe. It's coarser than table salt but smaller than the rock salt typically used on roads here.
“We were unloading 20,000 tons of it, and sorting it, and all of a sudden the snow starts coming," said Carver Laraway, owner of the Carver Companies, a New York company that also operates at Pier J in North Charleston.
The owner of the salt shipment, who Carver Companies declined to identify, agreed to sell a portion of it to support the extensive road-clearing efforts that followed Winter Storm Grayson.
“We reached out to (South Carolina) DOT and said we were here to help any way we can," said George McHugh, Carver Companies' general manager in North Charleston. “They called back about two hours later and jumped all over it."
"We’ve been running around the clock now since the storm starting," McHugh said late Friday.
Tim Henderson, district administrator for DOT, mentioned the shipload of salt in an interview Thursday, saying it played an important role in clearing Charleston-area interstates and bridges. About 2,000 tons of salt went to DOT, mostly to locations along the coast.
That might sound like a lot, but it's far less than the state might buy if South Carolina saw snow more often.
“We’re from New York, so we’re used to dealing with 400,000 to 600,000 tons of salt a year," Laraway said.