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A barrel was placed in front of a manhole that was crumbling on Boardman Street in Haverhill.

Potholes galore have been opening up on area streets, meaning that municipal officials will have their work cut out for them repairing roads this spring.

"With all the water and snow, we're going to have tremendous problems this year with potholes, and more than usual," Haverhill Mayor James Fiorentini said yesterday.

"When you've had this kind of snow, that equates to other issues," said Methuen public works Director Raymond DiFiore. "One just sort of leads to the other."

Precipitation, up-and-down temperatures and cracks in the pavement are a recipe for potholes, which form when water seeps below the cracks before freezing. When water freezes it expands, breaking apart the pavement.

"The more freeze-thaw cycles you have and the more cracks in the road you have, the more potholes you're going to have," said Andover Highway Superintendent Chris Cronin.

One ingredient for abundant potholes this year is precipitation. The region has seen more than 70 inches of snowfall this winter.

DiFiore said last year was one of worst pothole seasons in recent memory, thanks to record-breaking rainfall.

"This year may match it," said DiFiore of the potential for potholes. "It depends on how quickly it thaws out."

Area public works officials said yesterday that their crews try to stay on top of potholes even in the winter by laying down hot top or cold patch. But with most of their efforts now concentrated on snow removal and the clearing of roofs, potholes likely won't become a focus until after winter.

"The way the winter's been, most of our efforts are going toward snow removal, sanding and salting," said Michael Morley, Lawrence public works supervisor. "We haven't had a chance to free up much of our help to do potholes."

By March, North Andover public works Director Bruce Thibodeau said his road crews should be out in full force fixing the potholes.

"Every year's rough," said Thibodeau. "If we don't have a lot of snow and ice, that's what the crews will be doing. We'll be out."

Staff writer Mike LaBella contributed to this report.

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