Winter weather can create hazardous driving conditions, including high winds, snow, ice and potholes. As the winter goes on, problem potholes only increase.

Katie Peterson | Staff Writer

Winter weather can create hazardous driving conditions, including high winds, snow, ice and potholes. As the winter goes on, problem potholes only increase.

“(The potholes) are worse this winter because of the number of freeze/thaws we’ve had,” said Jerry Clark, Department of Public Works operations and maintenance manager.

Potholes are formed by the expansion and contraction of water in pavement. When water freezes, it expands, pushing up and cracking the pavement.

The problem only worsens when cars, trucks and snow plows are constantly driving on the weakened pavement, Clark said. Patches applied in the winter are only temporary fixes.

“Pothole mix is softer than the frozen road surface, asphalt. So, when you drive over it with the car, it is like picking a scab,” he said. “A little bit keeps coming up and coming up, and then when it snows again, and it gets really cold and there is any moisture, the moisture will literally push that patch up above the road surface. When you bring your plow down the road, you peel it right out of the hole.”

To permanently repair these potholes, hot asphalt mix is required, but there are several reasons why that is hard to come by in the winter, Clark said.

“What happens in the wintertime, your asphalt plants are shut down, so you use what’s called a cold mix patch that is meant to be temporary until the plants open up in the spring,” Clark said. “So, no matter where you’re at, winter pothole repair is just what it says, repair. It is a temporary patch, whether it is Kansas City, St. Louis, Detroit or Fort Leavenworth.”

Clark said DPW is working to repair the potholes, but it is a struggle to keep up with them.

“We have an in-house staff that does pothole repair, but because of the multitude of potholes this year, and because of all the snow events, the same guys that move snow repair potholes,” Clark said. “It has been a very, very unusual season with the amount of weather events that we’ve had.

“Even the big metropolitan areas are saying, ‘Yeah, we’ve got the money for it, but we’re not going to be able to get it done until it stops snowing. And with the amount of potholes we’ve got, it’ll be June or July until we catch up,’” he said.

“(The potholes) get bigger and they multiply overnight. It is just a bad situation all around,” Clark said.

In the meantime, Clark said there are several things drivers can do to limit the damage to their cars.

“Stay out of the curb lane,” Clark said. “Most of your potholes are along the curb, so if you have a two-lane road and you can, stay away from the curb.”

Being observant and being mindful of speed are other things drivers can do, Clark said.

“If you see the car in front of you go ‘ka-thunk’ think about why they went ‘ka-thunk,’” he said. “If the speed limit is at 45 miles an hour, particularly if it rained, and there is water in (the pothole), you have no idea how deep it is.”

To report a pothole on post, call the DPW service order desk at 684-5555.

DPW is responsible for filling the potholes throughout the main roads of Fort Leavenworth. Fort Leavenworth Frontier Heritage Communities’ housing partner Michaels Military Housing is responsible for the potholes in the housing areas, Clark said.

Unified School District 207, Armed Forces Bank, Frontier Community Credit Union and Armed Forces Insurance are all responsible for their parking lots. DPW is responsible for the other parking lots throughout post.