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January 23, 2014

Roads plagued with potholes

Constant freezing and thawing creating more craters earlier than usual

It’s usually in March that public works crews find local roads filled with potholes.

But this year is an exception.

A winter characterized by unusual fluctuations in temperature and occasional heavy rain has led to a plethora of potholes — and it’s only January.

As a matter of fact, some communities already had their road crews out as early as December, patching potholes before they became small craters that could damage a car’s alignment or flatten a tire.

“Due to the weather and extreme temperature changes this winter, it’s creating more potholes to fill than past winters,” said David Van Dam, Haverhill Mayor James Fiorentini’s chief of staff. “Potholes aren’t new to us, but they are new to us at this time of year.”

The rate at which potholes have been forming has been about as unpredictable as New England weather. Temperatures that climbed into the 50s only days ago are expected to remain below 20 degrees until at least Saturday, when they are to soar into the 30s before plummeting again Sunday.

Constant thawing and freezing creates more and more potholes.

“This is an unusual year because of the extreme temperature swings, where it goes from 7 degrees one day to 50 degrees the next,” Van Dam said.

Haverhill’s Department of Public Works began filling potholes last month and hasn’t stopped.

Ray DiFiore, director of the Methuen Department of Public Works, said his crews have also been out since December. The city has already spent more than $3,000 filling potholes on side streets.

“We’ve seen more potholes than usual and most of them are not on the main drag,” he said.

Dealing with potholes and frost heaves can be frustrating.

“Tis the season,” Lawrence public works director John Isensee said. “It’s a New England tradition, although it is not something we’re happy about.”

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