IMU clarifies street repair schedule/conditions

With this winter’s extreme cold causing unprecedented damage to Indianola’s water mains, Indianola Municipal Utilities (IMU) is working to mitigate local driving conditions until permanent repairs can be made in the spring. Crews are out regularly with gravel trucks and shovels, attempting to keep local streets safe for drivers.

According to IMU Water Superintendent Lou Elbert, road repairs across the state of Iowa are dependent on weather conditions, and this winter has created new challenges.

“When you have a main break in the winter, you can’t pour concrete; it will break up because it doesn’t have time to cure fully,” said Elbert. “It’s not as simple as shoveling some blacktop in it and calling it good.”

He explained that for concrete to properly set and make the street safe to drive on, it needs time to set up and cure without big temperature fluctuations. This year, municipalities across central Iowa have struggled with the effects of an extreme thaw-freeze-thaw cycle brought on by record cold temperatures and a late polar vortex weather cycle. Many Iowa communities have set new records for cold temperatures.

Elbert points to a recently noted water main break on Indianola’s heavily trafficked East Iowa Avenue. The main broke on December 19, 2020, requiring immediate repairs to the pipe. Unfortunately, cold conditions made it impossible to complete the street repair at the same time, so IMU filled it with gravel (the common, accepted industry practice) several times in an attempt to keep traffic disruption to a minimum. The heavy, wet snow that followed, however, caused the plows to drag the gravel away. Heavy water runoff from further up the road also washed away the gravel. IMU has since placed cones around the holes to keep drivers clear of the damage.

Permanent road repairs of all kinds will resume in Indianola as soon utility officials are confident that night temperatures will remain above freezing and the frost layer has sufficiently receded.

“We will close the road for a day, enlarging the hole, then drilling and doweling into the existing concrete to secure it,” said Elbert. “So, it’s really important that the ground isn’t going to be wet or sloppy and that it’s going to stay thawed long enough to set up fully.”

IMU regularly announces major repair schedules, planned outages, and other important utility news on its Facebook page and its website.


PHOTO: Courtesy Indianola Independent Advocate