First Alert Weather In-Depth: What causes potholes?

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — If you have lived in Western New York for any length of time you’re probably very familiar with potholes, and it is even more familiar with them during this time of the year.

While we typically blame them on the weather, First Alert Meteorologist Glenn Johnson took a look at why they form, because there is actually a direct connection to the weather.

When there’s mild air in Rochester during the winter, similar to Tuesday’s near-50 degree temperatures and rain, water seeps down into cracks in the asphalt. Normally that is not a big problem, but of course, the colder air always comes back.

As we get to this time of the year the temperature will swing back-and-forth and when we get cold again and we can get down below freezing. That water converts over to ice. When that happens, it is estimated the expansion from water to ice will increase the volume by as much as 10%.

That is going to collect and expand the roadway. Then we get traffic that runs over the same particular area and that adds to the stress of the roadway. And as we go through time, and we get more cars driving over the same area it causes a collapse of this particular pothole.

This is repetitive with the same action over and over and that pothole will just get bigger and bigger. So it becomes a big problem for all of us.

Would it surprise to know that New York State ranks number three on the list the pothole complaints? So blame it on the weather.

Call the Monroe County Department of Transportation at 585 753-7700, 24 hours a day, seven days a week to report potholes, malfunctioning traffic signals, missing or damaged signs, or other problems on Monroe County roadways.