BRATTLEBORO -- Area drivers are always told to be mindful of snow and ice as soon as winter rolls around. But many fail to realize the increased danger they face from something often so commonplace it is unlikely to catch their eye -- potholes.
Wintertime is occasionally referred to as pothole season, for the tendency of its ever-changing cold and warm temperatures to create imperfections in paved roadways. These holes in the ground require as much caution from drivers as black ice and freezing rain and can prove to be just as dangerous. Gary Anderson learned this the hard way driving home from work on Western Avenue at about 6 p.m. on Monday.
The Keene, N.H., resident was heading home after finishing work in West Brattleboro when he noticed two vehicles on the side of the road with their hazard lights on. Anderson told the Reformer he was keeping an eye on the two vehicles in order to avoid an accident when all of a sudden "It felt like I dropped into the Grand Canyon and I heard my tire explode." He said one of the studded snow tires he recently had put onto his car had blown out due to a pothole between Green Mountain Chapel and the Planet Gas station.
"We call them potholes, but they're craters," he said Tuesday morning. "I was furious."
Anderson said he put a spare tire on his vehicle and drove it to Tire Warehouse in West Chesterfield, N.H, where he learned the sidewall of the tire had been ripped out. He said he had been driving about 25 miles per hour when the tire blew.
"At nighttime you can't see (the potholes). I called the town manager's office and left a voicemail and I'm wondering who I can send the bill to," he said, adding that each studded snow tire cost him $150.
He also said the drivers of the two vehicles utilizing hazard lights had pulled over due to the potholes as well. Anderson said a woman had a rim of her SUV completely bent and a man also had popped a tire.
Stephen Barrett, the Brattleboro Public Works director, said Tuesday his road crew was alerted to the issue and was addressing it.
"One of our big challenges is when you have cold weather conditions and then have warm weather conditions, what that does is it brings out the worst in road conditions," he told the Reformer. "Potholes are areas of the road that have failed and there is a patch applied with a material and when you have cold weather, that freezes.
"What happens is in the summer you patch a pothole and the temperatures don't freeze, so they stay intact," he said, comparing patching a pothole to filling a cavity in a tooth. "You could patch a hole today and the temperature could change and that patch would be gone tomorrow."
Barrett said there are a few ways to combat potholes. He said his department has a machine that recycles the heat in the materials of asphalt to create a better patch to cover a hole. Since potholes are failures in a roadway, Barrett said the only permanent solution is to rebuild or repave a road.
He said his department is in charge of maintaining Brattleboro's 60-plus miles of paved road and 38 miles of gravel road. He said the town spends about $200,000 on road upgrades each year, in addition to utilizing various grants, and town workers go out every day to patch potholes.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.