Potholes, heaving bumps in the road, mountains of melting snow dumping gallons of water into rivers. And lots and lots of mud. It must be spring in northern New England.
The region’s cold and snowy winter is giving way to an early spring and what is known as “mud season” in Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire. This year, it’s muddier and bumpier than most since many parts of the states had especially rainy and snowy winters.
Officials say this is a bad year for potholes as the snowmelt causes havoc on the many rural, dirt and gravel roads in the region.
Clayton Stalker, a selectman in the small town of Westmoreland, New Hampshire, described a man who recently relocated from Brooklyn, New York, confronting his first mud season.
“This guy, he just had no experience at all with this and he was totally befuddled with his two feet of mud all the way up his driveway and a two-wheel drive car,” Stalker said. “And I was like, ‘Nope, nope, you’re right, you’re not coming out.'”
Many parts of northern New England were buried under higher-than-average snowfall this year. Brassua Dam, Maine, near Moosehead Lake, got nearly four feet more snow than typical this winter. In New Hampshire, North Stratford, Berlin and Colebrook all had more than two extra feet of snow compared to a typical year, though southern cities and towns had more manageable snowfall.
All that snow has to go somewhere when it melts, and a lot of it seeps into roads, refreezes, and causes damage, said Dana Humphrey, the dean of the college of engineering at University of Maine.
“There’s a higher prevalence of potholes this year. That’s because of these storms that are a combination of rain and snow,” Humphrey said. “I think this is going to probably be a worse than average mud season.”
Todd Law, the director of the maintenance bureau of the Vermont Agency of Transportation, said the spring road conditions this year are the worst they have been in several years. Even spots on the interstate highways in Vermont have undulating pavement. In the last week, Vermont crews have put 370 tons of patches onto potholes, and 610 tons so far this month, compared to 375 tons all of last year.
In the Connecticut River town of Rockingham, the town closed all 30 miles of its gravel roads last weekend to through traffic.
“We are just really feeling the wrath of this past winter, and now it’s extending into the spring,” Law said.
Parts of the three northern New England states are also facing a moderate risk of spring flooding, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.
But the soggy season isn’t holding back hearty New Englanders from some of the region’s beloved traditions. Dixie Harris, a member of the family that owns Harris Farm in Dayton, Maine, said she expects the state’s annual Maine Maple Sunday, scheduled for March 24, to be as well attended as always.
“Mud won’t keep people away, that’s for sure,” she said.