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  • Ren Gudino

Extreme Weather Effects on Roads & Signage - New England & SF Bay Area Weather

Two weeks ago, the lower half of the United States was sitting down to family dinners and

frantically wrapping presents while families in the northeast were snowed in in Buffalo,

thousands were in car accidents, without power during freezing temperatures, left in airports as flights were canceled and roads were too icy to travel across. With 60mph wind gusts, an exploding transformer, and 23 states without power, it’s hard to imagine 2023 could start worse for others.

On December 31, when most people are looking forward to a clean slate and resetting themselves for the New Year, the SF Bay area was hit with strong storms; they were left without power and experienced downed power lines and closed roads. Five days later, they were hit with a “bomb cyclone”—a series of storms that hits extremely hard for 30 hours, leaving houses, roads, and vehicles in Gilroy, CA now, on January 10th, fully submerged by water.

From temperatures dropping a span of 40 degrees within hours, to roads being covered for days in water and ice, there are a lot of questions concerning what damage will be revealed when the water recedes. How can this be repaired? How can it be prevented in the future? Why are asphalt and pavement sensitive to elements such as water and temperature in the first place?

Temperature is winter’s main threat to roads. Since asphalt pavement expands when warmer and contracts when cold, quick decreases in temperature mean that there can be too much tension in the asphalt’s constriction. As the pavement constricts from this tension, cracks can form in the pavement. Those cracks will also wear faster as the asphalt later warms and then cools again with changes in daily temperatures. As this is happening, these roads are still carrying thousands of pounds in weight, weakening these areas exponentially over time. If the temperature freezes, water remains trapped beneath the pavement and freezes, where it expands underneath; this is frost heave as it gives the appearance of the pavement heaving. If this happens, it’s usually indicative of improper draining or maintenance of a road.

Water is also a significant threat to roads. When frost heave melts, the water can soak the ground beneath the pavement. During heavy rains, water seeps into the cracks that have newly ruptured during the winter and sinks into the soil. The longer asphalt pavement is in contact with water, the more it will start to deteriorate. This is why roads are built with slopes to drain the water away, and an efficient city will patch cracks and fill potholes to prevent any long-lasting issues.

We’re discussing the roads because other than being knocked over, we know that our signs will be able to endure the heavy rains and harsh weather conditions. The only concern someone might have would be about visibility during these intense storms and being guided to safety. When the rains poured around the San Francisco Bay Area, how many accidents happened because of limited visibility? Did signs in New York fog over during the sweeping decrease in temperature? Were exits clearly visible to drivers in Maine, as they attempted to return home to safety?

These wrecks and winds can knock down signs. If you need to report a missing or damaged sign to be repaired or replaced, please click here to know what to do.

From road deterioration, bad plumbing, and patchy electrical grid across the country, to canceled flights to numerous wrecks across the interstate, don’t let signage be another reason someone got hurt. Stay safe and may these areas be able to do the proper maintenance to strengthen their roads, and in the case of Gilroy, rebuild them with better drainage. We’re keeping the folks of the SF Bay area in our thoughts.

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