Unusual weather conditions bring a raft of road crevasses from San Diego to Minneapolis and just about everywhere else – along with accidents and injuries.
Is there something about the winter of 2023 that is extraordinary, pothole-wise?
That might well be the case, but not for the usual reasons. Typically, brutal and extended cold and snowy periods give way to potholes in the spring, beginning in February in southern states, followed in March and April as one heads further north. That’s the time when those potholes appear – jarring bumps are usually as seasonal as bobbing red robins and daffodils.
But oddly warmer weather in the nation’s midsection, as well as a relentless stream of moisture on the West Coast, are likely the causes of more potholes than usual in the first month of 2023.
An AccuWeather report on Yahoo! News looked at the extraordinary weather conditions and resultant potholes in San Francisco, as well as the snowy-but-warmer winter happening in Minneapolis. In both, pothole reports to departments of transportation are up above normal.
“With all the heavy rains, potholes do form in greater numbers, especially when you’ve had the rain that we’ve had,” says Michael Cox, a division manager with Los Angeles Public Works. They’ve received 1,400 repair requests in the first 20 days of the year, while Rachel Gordon, a spokesperson for the San Francisco Public Works says the 750 requests they received the first two weeks of January far outpaced the typical monthly total of 600 requests.
Meanwhile, in the Twin Cities of Minnesota the snowfall is far above normal – 50 inches this winter versus the average of 24 inches by mid-January. Joe Paumen of Minneapolis Public Works says the snow is less the problem than temperatures being warm enough to cycle through freezing and thawing every 24-hour period. “You get that freezing temperature during the night, then it thaws out during the day, consequently you get more potholes than normal,” he says.
According to the motorist advocacy organization AAA, ruined suspension systems and flat tires amount to $3 billion in car damages every year in the US. But the damage isn’t restricted to consumer automobiles. The increased number of potholes in these different regions affect the pace and cost of commerce. “They need to fix these potholes,” a truck driver told a CBS News crew in Minneapolis. “It’s bad and it’s getting worse. We already broke two axles on these trucks.”
And it’s a danger to human safety. A 60-year-old man in San Diego struck a pothole while riding an electric scooter in January. He was found unconscious on a street that was riddled with several deep potholes – thought to be due to “a dramatic uptick of potholes around San Diego County,” according to CBS8 News. His condition was critical with severe injuries and facial fractures, according to San Diego Police.
The city already has nine trucks and crews repairing potholes in January, something that is not possible in colder climates – where repairs at best are temporary until roads are dry and warmer, or if the road authorities use a polymer-modified cold mix pothole repair material.