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Published: Friday, 12/26/2008

Temperature fluctuations riddle streets with potholes

One of the city's large potholes is located on the corner of West Bancroft Street and North Detroit Avenue. One of the city's large potholes is located on the corner of West Bancroft Street and North Detroit Avenue.
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While Santa Claus delivered gifts on Christmas Eve, Mother Nature sent what amounted to huge lumps of coal to Toledo's division of streets, bridges, and harbor: a fresh crop of potholes and sheets of ice on city streets.

The potholes sprouted when temperatures warmed well above freezing Wednesday, causing moisture pockets in weary pavement to thaw and collapse. Ice redeveloped after the mercury fell back below freezing late in the day, causing water melted from the remnants of recent snow and ice storms to refreeze in the streets.

The result was a bumpy, and sometimes slippery, ride on many Toledo streets Wednesday night and yesterday.

"There are potholes all over today [Christmas]," said Officer Bill Burden at the Toledo Police Department's Northwest station. One on a residential street near Dorr Street and Detroit Avenue was so big that a police crew put an orange construc-tion barrel in it yesterday to warn motorists away.

David Welch, the streets division's commissioner, said he had to order "four or five" truck crews to work Christmas Eve to spread salt on the worst slippery spots.

"We've got some heavy ice pack out there too," Mr. Welch said. "And while the sun will help break it up" - for the first time seemingly in weeks, Toledo's skies yesterday were practically free of clouds - "it will all just freeze again overnight."

That means the streets commissioner expects to have just a crew or two to spare for pothole patching today, with the rest tackling the ice.

While he won't be at work today - as a supervisor, Mr. Welch is subject to today's installment in the Finkbeiner administration's series of one-day, cost-cutting furloughs - he expects to be on the phone with street crews quite a bit.

Among areas those crews may want to target are the Anthony Wayne Trail inbound near Glendale Avenue; Secor Road near Bancroft Street; Bancroft near Detroit, and Nebraska Avenue between Westwood Avenue and Parkside Boulevard.

And with another sharp warm-up expected today and tomorrow, motorists should expect the pothole problem only to get worse.

"People have just got to be wary and careful when they're out driving," Mr. Welch said.

Snowplows cause some rough patches in pavement when they snag on surface cracks and peel away a top layer of blacktop.

But the worst potholes occur in places where water has seeped into compacted stone beneath the pavement, accumulated, and frozen. When that water melts and drains away, it leaves voids that collapse under traffic.

Similar freezing action causes frost heaves, or bumps in roadways. Older streets, built of concrete slabs with asphalt paved over them later, are especially prone to frost heaves at the concrete slabs' joints.

After a chilly, upper-teens low overnight, forecasters expected Toledo-area temperatures to rise rapidly today into the mid-40s, with rain or freezing rain this morning followed by rain showers later in the day. Showers and even a thunderstorm were forecast for tonight and tomorrow, with a near-record high in the upper 50s predicted, before a cold front passes through the region tomorrow evening.

To report a pothole in the city of Toledo call 419-936-BUMP.

Blade staff writer Mike Sigov contributed to this report.

Contact David Patch at:


or 419-724-6094.

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