Westerville News & Public Opinion

Frigid temps bring early pothole season

By ThisWeek Community News  • 
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CHRIS PARKER/THISWEEKNEWS
Parker Cook braved the subzero temperatures and windchill to walk his dog, Rudy, Monday afternoon, Jan. 6 on Fairdale Avenue in Westerville.
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As most residents barred their doors against the cold early this week, Westerville city and school employees were hard at work to keep the city's services running as smoothly as usual.

The "polar vortex" that covered the country Monday and Tuesday caused Westerville City Schools to close, the city's Parks and Recreation Department to cancel classes and numerous other organizations and activities to cancel.

While snowfall was at a minimum, the city's snow trucks were out in force Monday and Tuesday, spraying the roads with a salt solution to keep them free of ice.

"We've probably put down more salt than we have compared to the last two or three years," said Westerville Public Service Director Frank Wiseman.

Wiseman's data for the season through Dec. 31 backed this up. Even before this week's subzero temperatures and minus-30 degree windchill, the snowy November and December already had the service department outpacing last year's figures.

For the winter season through Dec. 31, the service department already had invested 812 man-hours, compared with 628 for the same period the year before, to plow 1,306 miles of roadway and apply salt brine to 6,710 miles of roadway.

Through Dec. 31, the city had applied 9,660 gallons of brine mix, more than doubling the 4,590 gallons applied during the same time last year.

Clearing roadways of snow and keeping them ice free hasn't been this winter's only challenge, Wiseman said; the extreme dips in temperature have taken their toll on the city's roads.

"Another issue that seems to be materializing is potholes seem to be springing up a little quicker than usual," Wiseman said.

"Once the snow and ice are removed, you have the thawing and freezing causing the potholes."

As soon as a pothole is noticed or reported, the service department repairs it with a temporary tar patch that will last until more permanent repairs can be done in the spring or summer, Wiseman said.

Another department that's been working harder in the cold temperatures is the Division of Water.

The city's waterlines fared well through the cold temperatures, said Water Division Manager Dick Lorenz, but the city has been responding to calls of frozen lines at private homes and businesses.

"They call, indicating that they don't have any water, because somewhere internally they have a freezing," Lorenz said.

The department isn't responsible for the private lines, Lorenz said, but workers often will be sent out to verify that a frozen line is the problem, and personnel will walk customers through common solutions.

The high levels of salt on the road, especially when combined with the heavy rains experienced Sunday or the snow melt that came last week, can result in high levels of salt in the city's source water, Alum Creek.

To avoid water-quality issues, and to help warm the frigid water pulled from the creek, the city had tapped into one of its underground wells to dilute the creek water.

"It's not an issue as far as consumers are concerned, but it's something we're dealing with so it doesn't become an issue," Lorenz said.

Despite the extreme cold, the water has continued to flow through the city's treatment plant and miles of pipelines without issue, Lorenz said.

"The system is designed for this climate, and since it is down in the ground, one or two days of being abnormal doesn't have much of an effect, other than the individual houses," he said.

The cold and snow has caused maintenance personnel across Westerville to be out in force to avoid or cope with problems, according to representatives from the Parks and Recreation Department and Westerville City Schools.

Other than necessary outdoor work, however, the extremely cold temperatures had the city keeping its employees indoors, delaying work such as leaf collection and regular parks and Electric Division maintenance, city officials said.

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