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Des Moines, Windsor Heights gearing up for the 2022 pothole season

With warmer temperatures and melting snow comes one of Iowa drivers' worst nightmares: potholes.


After a brutally cold January, temperatures are improving and the mountains of snow are finally melting.  

But with that thaw, potholes return as well. While there may not be as many out right now, they are coming.

Conditions become most favorable for those craters to form when winter starts to let up, one of the few annoying things about the transition of seasons. But what exactly causes them to form and how much action could your wallet see if you enter the abyss? 

"The warmer temperatures above start letting the frost line retreat back towards the surface as the ground starts thawing out," said Jonathan Gano with Des Moines Public Works. "And that shrinks the ground underneath the pavement." 

Newton's Third Law of Motion says every reaction must have an equal and opposite reaction: contraction below the ground must mean expansion above the ground.  

But the winter fix for potholes is a temporary one. 

"Because the only material that's available in the wintertime is a temporary kind of oily gravel mix called cold-mix asphalt," Gano added. "It's not the same stuff we use in the summertime to build the road in the first place." 

The summertime mix is what takes care of it permanently. 

Windsor Heights was able to alleviate their own pothole mess on University Avenue a couple years ago. And since then?

"It hasn't really been a challenge on this corridor recently. 73rd Street's been a little rough," Windsor Heights Director of Public Works Dalton Jacobus said.

After a rough pothole season last year, some brake shops in Des Moines tell Local 5 the 2022 issues haven't ramped up yet.

There is certainly a monetary benefit to staying clear of those ruts. 

AAA estimates an average pothole repair cost is over $300, but can wind up being over $1,000. Gano says the city typically sees 5,000 to 7,000 potholes every year.  

If you see them you can report them to the city by calling 515-283-4950 or on the myDSMmobile app.

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Watch: Here's how Iowa road crews handle treating roads in subzero temperatures 

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