Weatherz School: How potholes form

It’s that tricky time of year where a simple drive down the street can feel like navigating a spaceship through an asteroid belt. We all try to a void a simple bump that can lead to costly repairs. Let’s break down the science behind the irritating phenomenon of potholes.

The pothole process begins with water seeping in through cracks in the road. This collects under the surface, softening the road base. Once the water freezes, it expands and forces the pavement upwards. Traffic adds extra stress on the weakened pavement. Once the ice melts and the water dissipates, we’re left with a hole under the pavement.

The weight of passing vehicles then causes the road surface to collapse into the hole. That collapsed road is now a pothole. The hole can expand with time due to continuous traffic, until sometimes, they’re too big for even the best drivers to avoid.

Pothole season comes to an end when we move away from the frezze and thaw cycle. Until then, we’ll continue to do our best to pilot through the potholes.