You are the owner of this article.
Scott County battles frost boils on gravel roads

Scott County battles frost boils on gravel roads


The brutal winter and now the cold spring are creating havoc for Scott County's gravel roads, where secondary roads crews are fighting with more frost boils than usual.

"It looks like a big mud hole," County Engineer Jon Burgstrum said of the frost boils that dot many of the county's 345 miles of gravel roads. "We've had them before, but this year (the problem) is more severe than it has been since 2008."

A frost boil is created when there is a layer of frost beneath the roadway surface that melts but cannot drain away because of the frozen ground below it. As vehicles travel the soft, saturated road they can leave ruts in the roadway creating problems for both fellow drivers and county road crews. 

"The heavy trucks go over it, push it down and turn it into a mudhole," he said, adding "Actually any vehicle will do that."

The county has received reports of heavy trucks getting stuck, as well as complaints of cars almost ending up in the ditch when two drivers have tried to pass side by side through the frost boils. 

In an interview Friday, Burgstrum said his office also is fielding complaints from residents wondering why they are not out putting down new rock on the trouble areas.   

"It's hard to get rock out to some of these roads when it's this soft. If we send a road grader out we can end up causing more damage," he said.

But crews have been out spreading rock and blading roads in some locations, but if the road is too soft it will just get embedded in the road by traffic.  

Burgstrum said frost boils have typically disappeared by now because "we've usually had several 70-degree days by now." But the winds and temperatures have been cold and are doing little to dry out the gravel roads.

"We can't dry them out, that's Mother Nature," he said.

Since it has been 11 years since the county has seen such a frost boil problem, Burgstrum said new residents may not know how to react if they drive upon a frost boil. "It's soft and the ruts can throw you around the road." 

His advice is to drive slow, be patient and share the roadway with oncoming traffic. "If you see a frost boil and you don't think you can get through it, don't go through." 

The county has had to temporarily close some roads.

"We know there are farmers hauling grain and if they call us and tell us what day they are going to be out maybe we can get (their roadway) fixed," Burgstrum said. "Welcome to spring in Iowa." 


Get local news delivered to your inbox!

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


News Alerts

Breaking News