Frost Heaves In December? Uh-oh...

The subject of today’s post?

Frost heaves.

This is something that occurs to roads during the latter part of the winter as snow and ice thaws and the melt water works its way under the pavement during the day, and then freezes during the night. This causes the pavement to move, heaving upwards and creating ridges across the road. The pounding of traffic over these ridges can cause the pavement to break up. It also can lead to potholes as the broken pavement is displaced, leaving a void in the road surface. This void is a pothole.

So why am I bringing this subject up at the end of December?

Deb and I made the trip to the WP In-Laws in southwestern New Hampshire today. On our way there I noticed that the surface of some of the roads we usually take were rather rough. It took a few minutes to realize that the roads were suffering from frost heaves. It wasn’t just some of the town roads suffering from this malady, but some of the state highways were also afflicted.

In all my years I have never seen frost heaves in December. They usually start appearing in late February or early March as the sun gets stronger and the daytime temperatures rise above freezing, but not in late December.

The only thing I can think of is that the abnormally cold temperatures we have been experiencing have frozen the ground rapidly and any water that would normally have had time to drain away from under the roads froze in place instead. Hence the formation of frost heaves months ahead of usual. While I doubt they will get bigger as they have no additional supply of water, they have appeared far earlier and may cause more damage as both traffic and snow plows will have an extra couple of months to break up the pavement at the frost heaves.

This does not bode well for our roads this winter.