So far, so good -- this year's mild winter is making pothole dodging a little easier for local drivers.
Driving home this afternoon, you may have dodged a few potholes or even helped created another one.
Thanks to a recent wet spell followed by Arctic weather, a new batch of jagged asphalt craters appeared on the city's 246.5 miles of streets within the last two weeks.
But this year's crop is relatively meager, said Tom Orzulak, the city's assistant director of public works.
"This has been the best winter in the last five for potholes," Orzulak said. "The only bad thing about that is the winter is not over."
Orzulak said a new batch began pock-marking city streets after a recent rain. And freezing temperatures helped moved pothole creation along.
"Up until that point, we were doing very well," he said. "This year, basically, we kept three people busy patching holes. But two winters ago, we had 30 people patching holes."
Another reason potholes may not be so bad this year is that some of the the heavily cratered streets of the past were covered with fresh asphalt during the summer, he said.
Orzulak and other city employees try to patch potholes as they appear.
"Every time we drive, we're out looking for them," he said. "There aren't any real bad spots. Most of them are scattered."
However, there are a few areas on the city's main streets that usually need frequent attention, such as the intersection of 15th and Iowa streets and Harper Street north of 23rd Street, he said.
City crews use a cold patching asphalt material during the winter. It holds up fairly well in dry weather, but if the patching is done during cold and wet conditions, the pothole might reappear in a week or a month, he said.
Most potholes are about two inches deep, Orzulak said.
"The biggest one I saw was maybe four inches deep," he said.
The causes of potholes vary. But the biggest ones are caused by a mix of water, traffic, cracked pavement and cold weather, he said.
"The car pushes water into the crack and like a hydraulic jack, pops the surface off," he said.
If you see a pothole develop, you can report it to the city at 841-1220 from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. After hours, you can leave a recorded message on the city's pothole reporting line, 832-3456.
- On the Road Warriors: Have any questions/concerns/peeves related to streets or traffic? Call the J-W Access line at 865-5000, enter category 7485 and leave a brief message.