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No getting around it, mud is a seasonal mess

Union Leader Correspondent

March 15. 2012 8:11PM
A school bus carrying Gilmanton students to Gilford High School got stuck in muddy Loon Pond Road in Gilmanton on Wednesday morning. (COURTESY JOSH DOHERTY)

GILMANTON - Many southern and central New Hampshire communities are dealing with one of the worst mud seasons in years, according to at least one road agent.

Travel on affected dirt roads has become difficult, and in some cases, impossible.

Residents along some muddy roads are frustrated and concerned about their safety.

This week in Tilton and Meredith, drivers found themselves stuck in thick mud, but found that some towing companies wouldn't come to the rescue because of fear their tow trucks would get stuck.

In Gilmanton, five school buses have had to be pulled from deep road mud in the past week. Tuesday night, an injured girl was unreachable by ambulance on Griffin Road because the road to her house could not support rescue vehicles, according to Bill Smith Jr., a neighbor of the girl's family.

'I am honestly fearing for my safety because I don't know if help can reach me if I need it,' Smith said. 'It's a huge safety issue.'

One bus carrying Gilmanton students was hopelessly stuck in the mud for almost four hours on Loon Pond Road Thursday morning, as the students sat and waited for help.

'It's a nightmare,' said resident Lisa Crossman, whose daughter was on the bus. 'It's very upsetting that the roads are so terrible, and it's put our children's safety in jeopardy.'

Towns with dirt roads in southern New Hampshire have been dealing with mud season for a couple of weeks. Temple Road Agent Timothy Fiske said he's had to close some roads because of mud season, which seems to be already coming to an end in southern New Hampshire, he said. Towns in central New Hampshire are likely seeing the worst of mud season now. Many northern towns report no mud problems yet.

Fiske said this year's muddy mud season is due to the up-and-down temperatures the state has experienced this winter.

Unusually warm temperatures and sunshine have melted sections of frozen dirt while shaded sections have remained solid. As temperatures warmed recently, frozen sections have begun melting, mixing with the warmer dirt, he said.

'It's been very bad, worse than other years,' Fiske said. 'The problem is moisture, and I have some roads that don't get much sunshine and others that get a lot. And we've been having these warm days and cold nights, and the rain hasn't helped.'

Road crews in many communities have been working long days trying to keep up with the mud. The treatment for mud is dirt and gravel, but crews are finding that when the roads are fixed in one section, the mud tends to migrate to untreated areas.

'They've been out there every day this week, but each time they lay some dirt down it gets worse,' Smith said. 'I haven't seen anything this bad in the 30 years I've lived here.'

When will it end? Soon, Fiske said, if the weather improves.

'When a road thaws out in the spring, the only way to get rid of the mud is to have the road dry out,' Fiske said. 'We need some warm weather for that to happen.'

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