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Mother Nature to blame for potholes, icy sidewalks

Warm weather has created a freeze thaw cycle that is causing potholes and icy sidewalks throughout the city.
January 15, 2014 - 4:15 PM

KAMLOOPS – Mother Nature has granted us some mild weather recently, and while the warmth of the sun has felt nice it has led to an earlier pothole season and plenty of slippery sidewalks.

Dennis Luison, Assistant Streets Manager for the city, says the season isn't unusually bad for potholes just yet, but it is earlier than what we would normally see.

“We're probably about three weeks ahead,” Luison says of the early potholes, “but there probably won't be as many come February either.”

Public works crews are currently working all day, every day with one or two crews focused on just potholes right now. They attend to reported potholes and keep an eye on the main drags but those in high traffic areas are usually patched overnight.

Two of the worst potholes so far this season have been in the 200-block of Victoria Street and one at the Halston Bridge that broke out over a weekend. That one needed to be broken open and repaved on the night shift. Those major patches should last longer than the hot asphalt used at other sites and is expected to buy time until crews can do a proper fix in the spring once the water has stopped running.

He says it's too early to tell if the potholes will actually be worse this year overall or if they are just appearing earlier, but notes the freeze thaw cycle has a lot to do with the recent creation of potholes, frost heaves and icy sidewalk conditions.

Crews had a hard time keeping up with the ice after freezing rains earlier in the month caused a backlog in sidewalks needing to be deiced. Luison notes any deicing done, whether salt or sand, requires traffic to perform well. It also requires cooler temperatures. Warm weather has resulted in water running down the sidewalks and either washing away the deicer or covering it up as it freezes overnight.

“All the sidewalks are cleared, it's just a matter of the freeze thaw cycle causing ice,” Luison points out.  “The guys are out there everyday doing their best.... Sometimes it's hard, doing the same area again and again.”

Luison notes the sidewalks aren't icier than in other years, it's just an earlier time of year to see the ice buildup because of the warm weather. Interior Health spokesperson Michaela Swan agrees. She says while they don't keep track of slip and falls due to ice there doesn't seem to be a huge increase in the number of injuries at Royal Inland Hospital this winter.

Chiropractor Dr. Gordon Besse of the Back to Health Centre on the North Shore says he has seen an increase in slip and fall injuries though, but notes there has been a decrease in the number of shovelling injuries.

“It seems to be one or the other,” Besse says of the winter injuries he sees, noting he personally has encountered some black ice in area parking lots as well.

The city is only responsible for the sidewalks off the arterial roads, and keeping up with just those (about 90 kilometres) can take all day, Luison says. He notes most property owners are responsible for the sidewalks in front of their homes or business. Some business owners in areas the city does tend to realize the crews can't do it all before shops open every morning and have taken to clearing or deicing themselves to keep the area safer for their customers.

As crews catch up on potholes and snow removal other preventative measures are starting to happen on our streets. Windrows are being knocked down to help increase drainage, allowing roads to dry and water to run off the sidewalks, and widen roads.

Items like street sweeping won't take place until the end of February though, Luison warns, there's still too much snow on the ground and crews have enough work in other areas.

You can use the myKamloops app to report a pothole or icy sidewalk conditions or you can call the public works office directly at 250-828-3461.

To contact a reporter for this story, email, call (250)819-3723 or tweet @JennStahn.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014
InfoTel News Ltd

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