Mother Nature's wrath has taken its toll on the streets of Mitchell, causing a myriad of potholes and headaches for vehicles using the city's roadways.
In Kevin Hughes' 22 years of working for the city's street and sanitation department, he's never seen this many potholes scattered across Mitchell's roads.
"I have never seen the roads this rough, and we will have our hands full this year," Hughes said prior to patching up a pothole Monday on Foster Street.
Hughes is one of several city crew members tasked with temporarily fixing the pothole ridden streets during the next few days until the weather conditions warm up to allow permanent repairing.
"This winter has been tough on our roads, mainly because the change in the weather has been so extreme with the freezing and thawing we've experienced lately," Public Works Director Kyle Croce said Monday. "That change in weather causes some deteriorating roads to crack, which start forming into potholes after heavy traffic drives over those areas."
With a spring snowstorm expected to hit Mitchell by mid-week, more challenges loom for city crews to begin repairing the potholes, causing further delays in the process. Croce hopes this will be the last round of having to use the snowplows, so the city can begin implementing more permanent repairs to the rugged streets and roadways as early as next weekend.
More snow means more plowing, which Croce said has also played a role in the uptick of potholes this year.
"Plowing has much less of an impact on potholes than weather does, but there has been some damage to the roads from the plows," Croce said. "But we have to keep the roads safe and driveable, so that's out of the city's and our snowplow crew's control."
There are two different types of pothole repairs the city uses, which consist of a cold mix that acts as a temporary pothole fix, while the hot mix repair is designed to be a more permanent solution, according to Croce. Packing potholes with gravel also serves as a temporary fix during the winter months, which Croce said has been very effective this winter.
"Utilizing the gravel is the best temporary fix until this winter storm passes, and then we will get together with asphalt companies to start the hot mix repairing process," Croce said.
Cold mix asphalt is made up of small rock chips and oil, which allows the asphalt to maintain softness that helps it repel water and moisture. The hot mix asphalt is made up of sand, stone, gravel and rock bonded by oil rich cement. For the hot mix to be effective, warmer temperatures are necessary, Croce said.
When the hot mix asphalt is applied to a pothole, Hughes said it gets compacted with a heavy roller that crews use to drive over the area, which smooths the asphalt to be even with the existing road. Croce said traffic is typically permitted on the paved pothole while settling and cooling, and it can take roughly a day until the area is safe and driveable.
"Some potholes are more severe than others, and that requires more time for the repair to settle," Croce said.
Croce provided a timeline for repairing the potholes, and said the goal is to have most of the streets patched up with hot mix asphalt by mid-summer.
Croce also noted some streets have more severe damage than others, citing Sanborn Boulevard, Foster, Havens and Burr Streets as the main roadways the city street crews will prioritize.
"We have to make sure those main roads stay open as much as possible, and those streets have been really damaged throughout the winter," Croce said.