Potholes typically become prominent in the spring, but the Springfield area is already seeing its fair share of pothole problems.
Above normal snowfall so far this winter, combined with big temperature swings in the last two weeks, have initiated the freeze-thaw cycle much earlier than normal and are already keeping road crews busy repairing the roads.
In West Springfield last weekend, the Route 5 tunnel at the North End rotary was shut down for a second time after multiple vehicles blew out their tires from potholes. Incidents like that are continuing to stack up across the region, and our drastic weather patterns so far this winter are the main cause.
The total snowfall through Jan. 15 was reported as 21.3 inches at Bradley International Airport, which is 39 percent above average at this point of the season. That excess water finds its way through cracks in the roads.
Because water freezes when it expands, it breaks apart the pavement underneath the road surface. The couple of sub-zero nights Springfield had just after New Year's Day were perfect conditions for that to occur.
Eventually, warmer days melt away that trapped ice, leaving behind some air pockets underneath the road. When a large vehicle drives over it, the surface collapses into the hole left behind.
Daily mean temperatures, which account for both the highs and lows, normally do not get above freezing for several consecutive days until the first week of March. That is when potholes are more prominent in the region.
However, from Saturday, Jan. 11 to Thursday, Jan. 16, the mean temperature in Springfield has skyrocketed to 39 degrees, while the normal is 26. The deep freeze two weeks ago, combined with the rapid warm up, has caused the freeze-thaw cycle that creates potholes to develop way ahead of schedule.
MassDOT encourages people to report potholes by calling 857-DOT-INFO.
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