In Like a Lion: March Snow Cover “Blanket” and Fresh Snowfalls Means Potholes Through Spring

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What does it mean that snow accumulations – between at least two and 24 inches – are still found in early March 2014 in 44 of the 48? What about the thick blanket of snow that has been present for months now in a lot of the Northeast and Midwest, contiguous American states?

Potholes are on the way, of course. Potholes by the millions, possibly billions, likely. That’s because the successive waves of deep cold and snow in the winter of 2013-2014 have set up ideal conditions for potholes to form on the roads, streets and highways. And what’s more, the freeze-thaw fluctuations in temperatures that happen in the shoulder seasons (springtime in particular) mean that snow turns to melt water, works its way into pavement cracks, then expands with the freeze that might come just a few hours later.

 

This is already become apparent in places like Louisville, Kentucky, where the local news station WHAS-11 has warned drivers about what to do when a car tire blows after hitting a pothole. “The only thing worse than getting a flat tire from a pothole is the thought of changing a flat tire in these temperatures along the side of the highway,” said the community reporter for the station. They recommend tire inflator and sealant kits or run-flat tires, which are sufficient to get a car to a service station or warm garage.

 

Toward the end of February, the city of Denver, Pennsylvania (Lancaster County) noted that the borough’s street salt stock was just about depleted. The public works director there also noted that potholes are currently “full of runoff from the melting snow and can’t be repaired until they are drained.”

 

Most types of asphalt used to fill potholes do not tack to the spot unless it is dry; however, some cold mix asphalt can be set in standing water. Standard asphalt also must be installed while warm from the asphalt plant, which complicates the road repair processes for many municipalities.

 

All of which adds up to a bumpy ride across much of the country until warmer, drier conditions allow a better fix a few months down the road.