DRACUT — Pothole season has arrived a bit earlier this year due to a recent warm-up in temperatures following the so-called “bomb cyclone.” They have been spotted (and felt) on roads across Lowell and Greater Lowell, but public works officials say they have it covered — pun intended.
“That change in temperature is always going to bring out the worst on potholes and the degradation of or failure of patches,” Brian Gilbert, superintendent of the Tewksbury Department of Public Works, said last Thursday. “We’re on it. I believe there are two cruisers today doing potholes and, between potholes and sanding and other winter activities, we’re getting to them as quickly as we can.”
Edward G. Patenaude, director of the Dracut Public Works Department, said potholes are scattered all over Dracut.
“Our roads are in pretty good shape as far as our pavement goes,” he pointed out.
Patenaude said his staff keeps up with temporary fixes on potholes as calls come in, until they can repair them properly this spring. Last week, he said, the department had received around 20 calls about potholes.
Potholes result as water from snow and rain seeps into small cracks in the roadway surface. As temperatures drop, the water freezes and expands, making the cracks larger until potholes form. According to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, several factors such as heavy traffic, pavement age and vehicle weights contribute to the problem.
“We knew once we had that thaw, that it was going to be problematic as far as potholes,” said Tom Bellegarde, director of Lowell’s Department of Public Works. “We’re filling in about 40 potholes a day.”
Bellegarde encouraged residents to call his department if they see a pothole. He said there are some streets in the city that are always problematic, such as Thorndike and Dutton streets, and added that even he has called in some potholes to the office. Reporting is key here, Bellegarde said.
“Your next chance for rain is going to be probably late Monday afternoon and really Monday night into Tuesday, so during the nighttime,” National Weather Service meteorologist Matt Belk said. “You’ll be right below freezing temperatures pretty much now until Monday.”
Michael J. Woods, public works director for Wilmington, said last week that his department is staying up with the town’s potholes.
“With the (temperature) warm-up last week, it got a little busier than what it has been throughout the winter so far,” he said.
Woods said his crew goes out once or twice a week to patch up potholes around Wilmington.
Andrea Kennedy, of Westford, said she hit a pothole on Middlesex Street in Lowell last Wednesday night right after the Rourke Bridge that caused $1,500 damage to her Jeep’s suspension.
“I pulled over immediately thinking I definitely popped a tire but when I got out, everything looked OK,” Kennedy wrote Thursday in an email to a Sun reporter. “It wasn’t until I started driving again that I realized something was really wrong.”
Over in Dracut, resident Frank Antifonario said he hasn’t seen any really bad potholes in town.
“The town is small enough where it can keep up with all the little problems that arise with the roads,” he said. “I find that the public works department is very good on repairing roads.”
Follow Amaris Castillo on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.