ANDERSON – That early-spring freeze cycle that Indiana is going through this week is bad for more than just sinuses – it’s also causing massive potholes and crashes across the county.
Calls to officers were nearly constant Wednesday morning and early afternoon as rolling, sometimes extremely dense fog, coupled with large new potholes sent many drivers off Interstate 69 with a flattened tire or busted rim.
“We have had probably four or five accidents today … the biggest problem is blown-out tires and stuff like that,” said Indiana State Police Pendleton District 1st Sgt. Tim Kaiser.
After air temperatures swung from negative double-digits last week to more than 50 degrees Wednesday, expanding and contracting road surfaces caused new potholes to pop up as well as making older holes significantly worse.
Potholes are formed after rain or snow seeps into the soil below the road surface. The moisture freezes when the temperature drops causing the ground to expand and push the pavement up.
As the temperature rises, the ground returns to a normal level, but the road surface remains pushed up, causing a gap. When a vehicle drives over the cavity, the pavement surface cracks and falls into the hollow space.
Malorie Duncan, a spokesperson for Indiana Department of Transportation, said crews will be working in shifts throughout the day and evening to fill potholes across the county.
However, because the area along I-69 near Anderson is under contract for widening – it’s up to that contract holder, and not IDEM, to fix any potholes.
“I have contacted them and they are trying as fast as they can to get those done,” Duncan said. “They usually work on interstates overnight to avoid traffic – so even if you don’t see them working on (potholes) they are.”
For now, because of upcoming cold temperatures along with rain and possible snow throughout the week, crews will be using less-effective cold mix asphalt, which will be replaced with better warm mix when it becomes available next week.
Area residents can report a pothole to local street departments by calling the following telephone numbers: Anderson Street Department — 765-648-6445, or at www.cityofanderson.com; Madison County Highway Department — 765-646-9240; Elwood Street Department — 765-552-2711; or Alexandria Street Department — 765-724-3354.
If a pothole does cause a flat tire, police encourage drivers to call the non-emergency line at 765-648-6775 and ask them to send an officer out before trying to fix it.
“Just pull over as far as you can and call us – we can have lights behind you… let us come out and help you to be safe,” Kaiser said.
On Wednesday, just one accident resulted in serious injuries, according to Kaiser. Around 10:30 a.m. near Exit 219 on I-69, a black Chrysler Town and Country van rear-ended a white work van, sending both drivers to the hospital. The driver of the Town and Country was sent through the front windshield in the crash, police said.
Additional information on the extent of injuries or drivers’ identification was not available by deadline.
Heavy fog, coupled with drivers slowing to get around disabled vehicles or to swerve around potholes, caused state police to “slow roll” drivers through the area to keep speeds down. Essentially, officers drove in the middle of the interstate with flashing lights on and going well below the speed limit to slow down traffic.
“Just a way to keep them slowed down so they don’t come flying down on the traffic backup and cause an accident,” Kaiser said. “The next thing you know they are coming through the windshield.”
In situations where traffic backups are likely, he urged drivers to not focus solely on the car directly in front of them – but to also look several cars ahead.
“If that person four or five cars in front of you is slowing down, you might well get ready to slow down,” he said. “Just slow down 10 miles per hour and you will eliminate 90 percent of accidents.”