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The intersection of County Roads 8 and 80 (next to Service Foods) in Perham is riddled with potholes. County crews started to repair some of their highest priority spots around the area last week, but it may be awhile yet before the less serious holes and cracks are filled. Marie Nitke/FOCUS

Expect those holes to last a little longer: Pothole patching delayed by cold, wet weather

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The cold, wet weather that continues to linger this spring means it’ll take longer for potholes to be repaired.

Perham’s Public Works Director, Merle Meece, said the holes need to be dry and free of ice before they can be effectively patched.

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“The weather’s not cooperating,” he said last Friday. “You have to make sure there’s no ice, and right now that’s a problem. There’s always ice in the holes in the morning, and then they’re wet (for the rest of the day).”

Winter is the breeding season for potholes. Ground water freezes and expands, causing cracks in the roads. These cracks grow larger as traffic drives over them and creates vibrations.

Often hidden in winter by thickly-packed snow and ice, the holes become evident as things begin to melt – and that’s when tires start to catch on them.

Once the holes dry out enough, Meece said, city workers will fill them with cold patch – a temporary solution that can be effective in winder conditions but doesn’t usually last long. He was hoping that could start as soon as this week.

A more permanent solution, hot patch, will be applied once temperatures are consistently warmer. Meece said that would be late April, at the earliest.

City workers, however, don’t have any control over the maintenance of county or state roads, which make up some of the Perham area’s main thoroughfares.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation was out late last week patching some holes along Highway 78 and other state highways, but there are still more holes and cracks that remain to be filled.

Otter Tail County crews have recently started the patching process around Perham, as well, according to the county highway department’s Maintenance Supervisor, Rick Hoyum.

The county starts by patching some of the biggest holes and worst “blow-outs” (where chunks of old, hardened patch are actually blown out of the road) on high-speed roads, he said. After that, they’ll move on to smaller holes and cracks on lower-speed roads, as time allows.

The highways are prioritized first, Hoyum explained, because “if somebody hits a pothole at 55 miles per hour and loses control, the end result is probably going to be a lot less favorable than if somebody hits a pothole and is going 30.”

Because of the inevitable delay in getting to in-town roads, Hoyum said some people think the crews are ignoring the municipal areas. But that’s not really the case.

“We’re trying to provide the best, safest roads to the public overall,” he said. “We know that this activity is going to happen every spring, and we prepare for it and we get out there as soon as we can.”

Since county crews have to work pothole patching in around other, sometimes more urgent, spring duties such as sandbagging, the more minor road maintenance may sometimes have to wait. This year, some sandbagging has already begun at a few locations around the county.

People can report potholes to the city of Perham, or the county or state highway departments, whichever is appropriate for the road being reported.

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Marie Johnson
Marie Johnson (formerly Nitke) came to the Perham Focus after several years as the Education and Arts & Entertainment Editor at the Herald-Review of Grand Rapids, Minn. She lives in rural Ottertail with her husband, Dan, and their spunky yellow lab, Louisa.
(218) 346-5900 x228
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