Many people wish the weather would just make up its mind.

Overall, it’s been a fairly mild winter with bursts of extreme cold, snow, sleet and rain all mixed in.

It’s possible the people wishing most for the spring to arrive may be those who work for area street departments. The fluctuating weather is especially hard on roadway surfaces, which contract and expand based in part on the temperature.





The science behind pothole creation is fairly basic, and it doesn’t take much to create a big problem.

“Potholes will be much more prevalent this year due to the freeze and thawing that’s going on, especially with the weather events we’ve had, with rain events one day, and the next day, within 24 hours, it’s dropping well below freezing. It’s very, very hard on pavements,” said Jeff Beeler, public works superintendent for the city of Warsaw.

Issues can arise from even the smallest of issues, according to Kosciusko County Highway Assistant Superintendent Steve Moriarty.

“Even if you already have a little hole already started, or you’ve got a crack in the road, a lot of the time water gets into those places. Then the temperature drops and that water freezes,” he said. “Once the water freezes and expands to ice, that damages the road and increases the size of the hole.

“The other thing is the road base. When the ground under the road gets soft and mushy, people try not to drive on the outside edge, because they might slide off. Well, the ground under the middle of the roadway is just as soft as the edge, and that causes the road surface to fluctuate quite a bit.

“If the pavement’s not that thick, or it’s a thin chip-and-seal, it’s hard for the road to stay strong.”

Prosperity brings on a certain element to winter road maintenance as well.

“There’s been an increase in truck traffic over the past 12 to 15 years, and some of these roads weren’t built for all that truck traffic. That can really affect the road, especially along the edges,” Moriarty said.

Priorities have shifted every day for road crews, with the different weather patterns experienced this season.

“It’s hard to get past this time of the year. We just spend most of the day patching on Friday, but this morning and today our priority will be treating and clearing the roads,” Moriarty said. “At the end of the day today, if the weather gives us the chance, we’ll be out patching (potholes).”

“Pothole repair isn’t the top priority of either department; keeping road conditions safe for travel is No. 1. But potholes are pretty much next on the list.

“This time of year we also like to cut back foliage so people can see once everything turns green. But pothole patching is right up there, even before that,” Moriarty said. “The majority of our time is spend fixing up the roads.”

Beeler said he anticipates Warsaw roads will hold up fairly well because of the things done before winter came in.

“Because of the maintenance practices and preservation work we’ve done the last few years, a lot of our roads are, for the moment, holding up pretty well,” he said. “I don’t think things will get to the point they’re horrible, but we can’t count it out.

“We’re very fortunate to have a supportive administration and a hard-working staff to do everything we can to keep our roads in the best possible shape.”

People are free, of course, to report a pothole to the appropriate department. Moriarty said he hopes people understand the departments are all doing the best they can.

“A lot of the time they are spotted by the district patrolmen, who are monitoring their area,”?Moriarty said. “If it’s a big hole on a well-traveled road, there’s a good chance we already know about it and we’ll get out there the first chance we get.”

Beeler echoed the sentiment.

“We do have crews out, when possible,” he said. “Any day where we have decent weather and we’re not having to be out spreading salt or plowing, we’re out pothole patching to help keep things manageable.”