Local News

'The Great Thaw' Poses New Hazards

BEND, OR -- Despite warmer temperatures, Oregon Department of Transportation road crews continue on 12-hour shifts, working to clear snow and ice from state highways. ODOT’s Peter Murphy says the region is heading into a weather pattern likely to create more problems. "You get that freeze/thaw cycle going on, where it’ll melt a little bit, then it’ll melt and freeze and melt and freeze; and that’s pothole city. So, coming out of this, whenever it’s going to be, that’s what will happen. So, we’ll go out initially and use a cold patch. You can’t really do a whole lot about a pothole until it warms up and dries out." 


Warmer temperatures are naturally clearing some snow and ice, but it's not even halfway through winter and Murphy tells KBND News, "You’re going to have moisture rolling somewhere, that’s the bottom line - whether it’s snow or rain or whatever. And so, ice expands – that’s the one thing that expands when it gets cold. So, it’ll expand; the water, when it warms up, it’ll drop down; it’ll expand then drop down and it just kind of widens out that pothole. So, if people do see a major pothole, we probably know where it is but it’s ok to call us and let us know." 


"Wash-boarding" can be the most difficult hazard during a thaw and Murphy says in severe cases they’ll send out a road grader. "That’s pretty massive weight going down and breaking it up; takes a little while to do that. That kind of thing you don’t move in a hurry on; you don’t want to tear up the highway, either. So, that takes a real skill and it takes time. Where and when it’s necessary we do that; but we do try to wait. Plus, we’ll throw magnesium chloride in, where the opportunity exists to help melt that down first; or maybe that’s all it needs."


Heavy rain on top of snow and ice also causes a risk of landslides. Ali Ryan Hansen, with the Oregon Department of Geology, says super-saturated ground could shift in many areas around the state. She says you can normally hear a landslide before it starts. "You're going to want to listen for unusual sounds that may indicate moving debris; trees cracking, boulders knocking together. A trickle of mud falling or debris may proceed a larger landslide." She adds drivers and pedestrians need to "be extra alert; use all of your senses." And, "Around the home, it may be something like cracks appearing in the foundation, walls leaning, trees leaning." 
The Oregon Department of Geology website has more tips, along with a map of areas with the highest risk of slides


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