With Mild Winter, Mud Season Arrives Early

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(Host) It’s been one of the warmest seasons on record, and due to mild temperatures and a nearly snow-less winter many Vermont cities and towns have saved big on their maintenance costs.

But, as VPR’s Kirk Carapezza reports, they’ll need that extra cash to clear the roads during Vermont’s infamous fifth season, which has arrived earlier than usual.

(Carapezza) It’s mud season – that time of year when just trying to get from here to there can be a huge challenge.

Dirt roads turn into quicksand. Deep ruts swallow cars. And detours add miles to your commute. Many true Vermonters will tell you surviving mud season is some kind of badge of honor.  Others who like to call themselves hardcore may even tell you they enjoy it.

(Liberty) "You just got to be patient. Let Mother Nature take her course."

(Carapezza) Troy Liberty is not one of those people. He works on the road crew in Richmond, and the lifetime Vermonter approaches mud season with a certain fatalism.

(Liberty) "You can’t rush it. And everybody says it’s the worst it’s ever been. Well, they don’t remember last year or the year before. It just comes every year. There’s nothing you can do about it."

(Carapezza) Richmond is situated at the foothills of the Green Mountains, and the town has 60 roads. Half of them are unpaved.

(Liberty) "Well you got to cut this down quite a bit. Cut it to one lane if you have to. That’s the way it always is."

(Carapezza) Liberty supervises road repairs as he drives his F-150 truck up a long road that snakes into the Green Mountains. It’s in such disrepair, even his truck bottoms out.

(Liberty) "It’s just soup."

(Carapezza) Many towns try to grade these roads as fast as they can. But it can be a tricky task to repair roads whose surface is thick layers of brown sludge.

(Urbanik) "The fact that it’s been so warm has meant that you don’t get the overnight freeze that firms-up the road in the morning."

(Carapezza) That’s Jeffrey Urbanik, Richmond’s Town Administrator.

(Urbanik) "It’s just been slop all day long and people get very frustrated."

(Carapezza) Urbanik says the mild winter saved his town some maintenance costs, but this early mud season will eat up any cash reserves.

(Urbanik) "We’re not breaking the budget, but we’re not going to end up saving either."

(Carapezza) It’s the same story across the state. Newfane has had to hire extra trucks to keep the roads open. A listener in Brookfield wrote on vpr.net that the roads there are awful. She says, "There are huge frost heaves, whole sections where the best place to drive is the wrong side of the road… impenetrable mud bogs… incredible deep ruts."

And with more warm weather forecast this week, many folks are hoping the roads will finally dry out so that some progress can be made, at least until the next round of mud.

For VPR News, I’m Kirk Carapezza.

Like every year, conditions are worse in some places than others. What’s mud season like where you live? Send us a brief description and a picture. Learn how here.

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