WESTBROOK — New England’s own Nathaniel Hawthorne once wrote, “Life is made up of marble and mud.” In the region’s northern reaches, life will soon be made up of mud, mud and more mud.

Mud season is a rite of spring in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, when the snow and frozen ground melt, dirt roads turn into a mucky morass and potholes gape through paved roadways.

This year, it might stretch into the middle of May because of a brutal winter that froze the soil and left heavy snow on top of it, forecasters said.

The season typically begins in late March — March 20 was the first day of spring — and carries through April, but this year’s mud season is starting late because of the cold temperatures and threatening to stick around until past Mother’s Day, National Weather Service meteorologist Tony Mignon said.

The big question is how much rain the states will see in April and May, he said.

“When you’re getting used to all that snow being gone, the thing to look at is how wet is it going to be,” Mignon said. “That can make for a horrendous mud season.”

Meanwhile, Sean Goodwin, acting director of the Kennebec County Emergency Management Agency, said his agency is more concerned about the potential for flooding than problems with mud.

Snow thawing later in the season increases the odds that significant rainfall will cause flooding, not just along rivers but also along small streams and roads, Goodwin said.

“The mud stuff is not a big deal,” he said. “Having over a foot and a half of snow in my backyard is a little concerning to us.”

Other officials in New England said they are already steeling for a bad season in which thick mud could heavily impact rural communities that rely on dirt roads. All three states still have close to 3 feet of snow on the ground in some areas, and parts of Down East Maine have more.

The frost was still 7 feet deep into the ground earlier this month in some areas of Vermont, which will cause a lot of moisture when the thaw begins, said Scott Rogers, director of maintenance and operations for the Vermont Transportation Agency.

The state is also informing residents to be careful on roadways because expansion and contractions of frost in the ground will cause potholes.

“This is the kind of year when we’re going to get potholes and it’s going to be a particularly bad season,” Rogers said. “We really need to drive home the message of slowing down.”

The muddy season is likely to cut into some of the states’ traditional springtime outdoor activities. Fifteen of New Hampshire’s 18 multi-use recreational trails will be closed to motorized traffic such as all-terrain vehicles until May 23, said Amy Bassett, spokeswoman for the state’s division of parks and recreation. Golf course operators also said they are waiting to see how bad the season is before they decide when they will open.

“You can’t rut up the golf course,” said John Paul, golf pro at Burlington Country Club in Vermont.

Staff writer Paul Koenig and Associated Press reporter Wilson Ring in Montpelier, Vt., contributed to this report.


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