Spring roads make the going tough
Roads around the state have annual weight limits posted, and as frost heaves melt, mud will be making things messy. (NANCY BEAN FOSTER)
AMHERST — Monday's icy start was yet another reminder of winter's reluctance to surrender to spring, but the frost heaves are starting to give way, which means mud season is right around the corner.
Tiny beads of ice fell across southern New Hampshire on Monday morning, creating a "nightmare" for road crews, said Bruce Berry, director of Public Works for the town of Amherst.
"We scraped and treated the roads," he said, "but then it would turn to rain and wash away the salt and sand. It was a nightmare."
Spring weather is always challenging for road crews. For the past month, frost heaves and pot holes have waged war against drivers, and the temperatures are just now starting to thaw enough that the roads are more manageable. But then the mercury takes another plunge.
"I keep looking at my motorcycle thinking it would be nice to commute with that," Berry said, "but not when it's 30 degrees."
The frost heaves may be on their way out, said Hopkinton Highway Department Director John Thayer, but mud is coming fast on its heels.
"It happens every year," Thayer said. "My best advice to people is to leave when it's cold, and come back when it's cold."
Otherwise, there's not much that can be done to prevent dirt roads from turning into soupy messes when the weathers warms.
"Sometimes the mud can get to be two or three feet deep," Thayer said. "We put washed stone in the really bad places to try to stabilize the roads, but it can get very expensive."
Thayer said that people who know the roads well should avoid those places that usually get mucky if possible so moisture can leach out of the dirt.
Berry said some of Amherst's dirt roads are being reinforced with stone as well, but it's going to be a while before the mess winter has left behind can be cleaned up by sunny days and a good car wash.
"It's not a fun time of year," Berry said.
Meteorologist Steve Capriola of the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine said spring is making its way, slowly to New Hampshire, but "it's taking its time."
"We're looking at it being a little closer to seasonable temperatures over the next seven days, maybe even touching 50 towards the end of the week," said Capriola.
For mud lovers, there's also some precipitation in the forecast for Friday into Saturday, with rain likely in southern parts of the state, and a wintry mix possible up north, but Capriola said it's too soon to pin down exactly what will fall and where.
He did say, however, that the trend towards warming will continue as we move into April and we could see the 50s on Sunday and Monday.
"There is light at the end of the tunnel," he said.