In the days of road thaw closures…

The in basket: Ann Horn’s “Remember When” piece on Sunday, Feb. 11, included an item that jogged my memory.
“Emergency weight limitations were lifted from Kitsap County’s roads today,” it said, reprising an item from February 1957, “and school buses and other heavy vehicles were allowed to operate for the first time since last Wednesday’s thaw closed schools for three days.”
I had forgotten about those road closures, which also kept garbage trucks and fuel oil delivery trucks off the restricted roads.


The in basket: Ann Horn’s “Remember When” piece on Sunday, Feb. 11, included an item that jogged my memory.
“Emergency weight limitations were lifted from Kitsap County’s roads today,” it said, reprising an item from February 1957, “and school buses and other heavy vehicles were allowed to operate for the first time since last Wednesday’s thaw closed schools for three days.”
I had forgotten about those road closures, which also kept garbage trucks and fuel oil delivery trucks off the restricted roads. It seems now like they were an annual occurrence in my early days as a reporter here, and probably when I was a kid riding those school buses too. Probably they weren’t actually that frequent.
I asked Doug Bear of Kitsap County Public Works how the county had managed to toughen up its roads, as I can’t recall such a closure during a thaw in a decade or more.
The out basket: It turns out this isn’t a road improvement story, but a weather story, something else I’ve written a lot of over the years.
Doug said he checked with Traffic Engineer Jeff Shea and Traffic Investigator Dusty Wiley and they told him “to their knowledge, we have not stopped that practice. It hasn’t been used in the past few years because we have not had a prolonged freezing event that ended with rapid thawing.”
That’s as good a testament as I’ve seen about how relatively mild our winters have been since 1990, when the last prolonged freeze I can recall occurred.
The closures were needed because ice crystals that formed under the pavement during a long freeze melted when a warm rain followed, and deprived the road bed of enough strength to keep the asphalt from breaking up under the weight of heavy vehicles.
I guess if winters here ever return to what then was normal, we’ll see temporary rural road closures again.

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