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An in-depth look at pothole anatomy

Potholes are an annoyance that everyone in Michiana experiences each winter. They can lead to flat tires, they can ruin your alignment and they can cause significant damage to your vehicle. The weather that we get in Michiana is to blame for the large number of these potholes we see during the winter months.

When the weather pattern features temperatures that shift from warm to cold quite frequently, in addition to rain and snow, you have the perfect recipe for pothole development. And, as we all know, Michiana winters are notorious for temperature swings, wintry weather and plain rain during the December to March stretch. That same statement can be said for the Midwest as a whole, as well as the Great Lakes, Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Ohio Valley, the Plains, and the Tennessee Valley. 

Let's assume we have a well-traveled road that has some aging to it. In other words, there are spider cracks scattered about the surface of the road. When we see a warm spell, rain falls on the road. As it does, it seeps through those small cracks and gets stuck beneath the surface in the soil structure under the road. While there, the water weakens the surrounding soil. Then, when temperatures drop, that water will freeze and expand.

That expansion causes the pavement and surrounding soil to crumble and weaken even more so. Combine that weakening of the soil with constant traffic and you get breaks in the poorly supported asphalt. Then, as temperatures warm again, the frozen water melts and allows a hole to form as cars continue to drive over the weak area and send asphalt outward.

The potholes can grow quite large depending on the conditions of the roads before winter begins. If a road is in poor enough shape, it's not out of the question to have potholes upwards of three to five feet in diameter. 

The pothole problem will slowly dwindle as we head into March, April and May because temperatures no longer remain cold for long durations of time. 

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