Calhoun County Engineer Brian Rosenbalm said that while cracks and upheaval are expected on asphalt throughout the county, the overall impact from the early winter storms of 2014 won’t leave too big of a dent for the Highway Department to smooth over.
“Absolutely I’d say we got off light,” Rosenbalm said, noting he was still assessing the full impact of winter weather, including snow and ice that hit the county in January. “So far we haven’t seen anything that’s going to cause us major problems.”
Though some snow last week did stick and places like Roy Webb Road north of Jacksonville and Rabbittown Road near Piedmont saw a buildup of slush, Rosenbalm said, temperatures didn’t stay below freezing long enough for ice to wreak havoc on roadways.
Ice, not snow or rain, is usually the culprit when roads begin to crack, Rosenbalm said. Moisture will find its way underneath roads, and when it freezes, will cause the road to crack and break apart.
“When that trapped moisture melts, you’re just mixing dirt and water, essentially,” Rosenbalm said. “It’s just mud underneath those roads.
Sometimes precipitation doesn’t even factor into the equation for road deterioration. A deep-freeze in 2010 that sent temperatures south of 32 degrees for three straight days caused major cracks and potholes on more than 20 county roads, Rosenbalm said.
“Some of those roads just came apart,” Rosenbalm said, singling out Post Oak Road and Old Sulphur Springs Road in Alexandria as particularly treacherous spots. “They just all broke up.”
County Highway Department employee Brian Connery said the county spent $249,900 to patch those roads.
“It was just all over the county,” Connery said, pointing out the different county commission districts that saw road damage in 2010. “To pinpoint any one place that got the worst of it would be hard to do.”
Rosenbalm said he doesn’t expect the county to spend anywhere near that much for work on county roads because of damage from January’s and last week’s snow.
In Anniston, Public Works Director Bob Dean said it’s still too early to tell how much damage the storms, especially the one from Jan. 28, caused.
“That won’t start to reveal itself until things warm up,” Dean said. “Potholes aren’t something that typically show up overnight. Cars will continue to travel and dig up the road.”
Dean said knowing which roads will be impacted the most is a guessing game, but said newer, better sealed roads, were less likely to crack, even with heavier traffic.
In Weaver, that could be a nightmare. Mayor Wayne Willis said fixing bad, old roads is already a daily activity for the city’s public works crew.
“It’s like trying to catch a boulder in a wet Kleenex,” Willis said about stopping the damage to city roads. “We’re just doing the best we can.”
Willis also said the extent of damage in Weaver won’t reveal itself for a few weeks, but by then, the city might already be getting help for a long-term problem. The long-planned renovation of Jacksonville Street, one of the city’s main throughways, is expected to get underway in March, and Willis hopes the reconstruction will eliminate one of the city’s biggest headaches when it comes to roadwork.
Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.