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El Niño Is Coming...Are Your Pavements Prepared?

Like many children, El Niño can have its “moments”, throwing typhoon tantrums, tearful torrents, and other unpleasant weather events all over the planet. This winter it’s going to be a real handful, quite possibly the most challenging one ever. The Southwestern U.S. is predicted to receive more rain than usual, and a good pavement guardian should be ready to handle the situation.

El Niño Is Coming...Are Your Pavements Prepared?

What exactly is El Niño?

El Niño is born in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of South America. Once every few years these waters warm up when trade winds drop. Warmer waters pump heat and humidity into the air above them, perfect conditions for generating storms — our Niño's tantrums, if you will. El Niño then grows up and spreads out, affecting everything from typhoons in Asia (more of them) to snowfall in Canada (less of it).

National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center Forecast of Precipitation

Peruvian fishermen gave it the name El Niño (Spanish for Christ Child) because it begins around Christmas time. It can continue well into the following spring.

You may remember the terrible rainfall, flooding, and mudslides in 1997-1998. That was El Niño's doing — the strongest ever recorded to date. But the 2015-2016 El Niño could be even bigger, says the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, because Pacific water temperatures are even warmer right now than they were in 1997.

What does El Niño have to do with pavements?

When El Niño's tears pour down on our parking lots, water damage is likely to follow. It may be just a few cracks or ponding spots, or it could be as serious as a complete washout. This degradation isn't just ugly. It can be a safety hazard to both vehicles and pedestrians, and an insurance liability for you.

To survive El Niño's wrath you should keep an eye on what's happening to your asphalt, and take preventive or corrective action as necessary. Signs that your parking lot has or will have water damage include:

  • Pooling or standing water
  • Staining or soft, wet spots where water was pooling before it drained away
  • "Tide marks" of sand, rocks and debris around pooling spots
  • Cracking (ranging from small surface cracks to breaking the foundation)
  • Separation of paving layers
  • Depressions or potholes
  • Areas of upward heaving
  • Deterioration around curbs and drains

In our next post, we will discuss ways to prevent and repair El Niño-damaged asphalt pavements. In the meantime, if you have questions about the condition of your parking lot, and what you can do to prepare and preserve it, contact us.

ACE Asphalt is a full service asphalt maintenance, repair, and paving company with offices in Phoenix, Tucson, and Flagstaff, Arizona, Las Vegas, Nevada, Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Dallas,Texas. Ace serves the parking lot repair, maintenance, and paving needs of property managers, building owners, and contractors.

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