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How extreme weather makes potholes | Connect the Dots

Freezing temperatures can create a bumpy ride.

HOUSTON — Freezing temperatures and winter weather can mean more than just power outages and burst pipes. It could also mean more potholes. 

Let’s connect the dots.

Water under road freezes and expands

Winter weather is one of the main causes of the dreaded pothole. That’s because roads are more than just the asphalt on the surface— that is just the top layer and underneath is a thick layer of rocks and soil. Sometimes, when it rains, that water can seep below the asphalt. 

When freezing temperatures hit the water, under the road’s surface expands and stuff shifts around. And then when it melts, pressure from something, such as a car, can cave in the payment and create a pothole.

Freeze-thaw cycle

It gets really bad when you get into a cycle of freezing and thawing. 

The afternoon sun can melt the water while colder temperatures at night freeze it, again. It creates a cycle, where the sub-surface of the road is constantly shifting and can create some pretty massive potholes.

Salt worsens pothole problem

While salt can help keep ice and snow off roads, it can also make the pothole problem worse. 

Salt lowers the freezing temperature of water, which means you can sometimes increase the frequency of the freezing and thawing cycle when extreme cold hits. 

All of this can lead to a pretty bumpy ride by the time spring arrives.

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