Season of potholes
Unfortunately, it’s turning into a perfect pothole winter.
The combination of rain and wintry precipitation, then sudden shifts in temperatures as will occur this week, creates ripe conditions for potholes in roadways and parking lots. Moisture from rain, sleet and snow seeps into cracks in asphalt. When temperatures turn upward during unseasonably warm periods, the asphalts ruptures and breaks apart.
This week offers prime circumstances for potholes. The High Point area received a mix of wintry precipitation Friday amid frigid temperatures. But today and Wednesday, spring-like temperatures will push daytime highs into the 60s to near 70. By Thursday, temperatures will drop again, with highs in the 40s.
“You’ll probably start seeing more and more of those, especially when it gets warm through this Wednesday, then drops down again. We will start seeing more potholes, for sure,” said Mike Mills, division engineer out of the Greensboro district office for the N.C. Department of Transportation.
The pothole problem isn’t limited to DOT maintenance crews or workers for the city of High Point Public Services Department. Potholes can form in parking lots, leading to added expense for owners or managers of shopping centers and apartment complexes.
During the winter, maintenance crews are limited to patching potholes because overnight, freezing temperatures preclude doing extensive resurfacing.
“Right now it would be a temporary fix,” Mills said. “Usually you can’t do much permanent paving in the winter months. Asphalt has to be put in at a temperature of at least 40 to 50 degrees. If you put asphalt in, and it drops down below freezing at night, a thin layer is not going to last.”
The expansion and contraction of asphalt or concrete as temperatures fluctuate, especially when water is present, leads to stress at points on roadways that can create potholes, said Chris Thompson, director of the city Public Services Department.
“Anytime you have cracks in pavement and moisture, those two things don’t go together well. Then you throw in varying temperatures, and that compounds the problem,” Thompson said. “If you’ve got cracks sitting there full of water, and it freezes, it obviously makes it crack even more.”
Mills and Thompson said thorough resurfacing of roadways particularly hit by potholes wouldn’t take place until at least early spring, when crews have confidence that overnight temperatures won’t consistently dip to the freezing mark.
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See a pothole in or along a roadway? Here are a couple of numbers to call to report to maintenance crews.
City of High Point customer service office - 883-3111
N.C. Department of Transportation western Guilford County maintenance yard - 668-2464