How to survive mud season in Maine
Spring is the reward for making it through a Maine winter. Sadly, the transition time is as notorious as it is inevitable: mud season.
It’s the shoulder season between the dark, cold days of winter and the anticipated light, warmer days ushering in summer. The only way to avoid it is by leaving the state altogether until it’s over. For those who remain, here are some things to know about mud season in Maine.
The first thing to understand is Maine has all the right geologic and climate conditions to create mud. That means, like it or not, mud is going to happen.
All it takes is the right combination of rising temperatures, rain and melting snow to transform solid ground into a near liquid state. It was so bad last year that residents started referring to it as “mudpocalypse.”
Thanks to climate change, mudpocalypses could become the norm starting earlier and lasting longer, according to Sean Birkel, state climatologist at the University of Maine. Extreme weather events with wildly fluctuating temperatures are becoming increasingly common and leaving a muddy wake in their path.
Mud forms wherever there is soil containing silt or clay. That describes much of Maine’s surface geology making mud season an equal opportunity annoyance from one end of the state to another.
Just about anything can churn up mud to create an even larger mess including foot traffic, pets and vehicles.
To help mitigate mud around your home, lay down planks or boards to create temporary bridges on which to walk over the mud on the way to the front door.
Assuming there is space to do so, park vehicles in the least muddy or driest spot possible you have. If you are limited to a parking spot prone to mud, adding gravel can help dry things out. Keep in mind that, depending on just how wet that spot is, you could be looking at dump-truck loads of gravel.
Setting up a “portable garage” if you have the room for it, can also help give your vehicle a less muddy place to live. These are basically plastic tents with metal support tubings large enough to park a car inside. The light-weight apparatus can be moved out of the way during the year. Portable garages are available from most large home improvement stores or online.
It’s too late now, but keep this in mind for next winter — pay attention to where you plow or blow your snow. At the end of the winter all that snow you pushed or blown around your house and driveway is going to start to melt.
Melting snow will only contribute to making mud, so it’s a good idea to try to put your snow piles somewhere you know will have the least mud-creating impact as possible.
If it’s too late and your pile of snow has started to melt where it will do the most damage, you can create water channels by digging trenches directing the melting water away from high traffic or muddy areas.
In more rural parts of the state, it’s common to live on a dirt road. This means the drive to and from home can turn into a slippery mess during mud season.
Driving through mud not only dirties a car, it can create an unsafe mechanical issue with the vehicle. Mud can build up on tire rims, creating a tire imbalance. In addition to creating an obvious vibration or shake while driving, imbalanced tires can stress the vehicle’s shocks, bearings or wheel assemblies.
If your route takes over muddy roads, or if you have gotten stuck in the mud this season, it’s a good idea to use a high pressure hose or pressure washer to clean mud out of the tire rims. If you don’t own a high pressure hose or washer, ones are available for use at most car washes.
Washing the car during mud season also gets mud out of other areas in the vehicle’s undercarriage where it can build up causing rust or corrosion over time.
Speaking of getting stuck in the mud, if that does happen the best thing to do is call for help. Either a friend with a heavy duty vehicle capable of pulling you out or a business with the proper equipment.
What you don’t want to do is what a Windham man did in 2016. After getting stuck on a muddy road, he spun his tires so much the friction created enough heat to cause his car to burst into flames.
Mud season is the time of year the Maine Department of Transportation starts putting up signs on targeted dirt roads around the state limiting what kinds of vehicles can use them. This “posting” of roads limits traffic to vehicles under 23,000 pounds. Anything heavier can tear up and destroy a muddy road.
Likewise, local ATV clubs and landowners will post signs on trails and property to keep people from creating muddy property damage with recreational vehicles.
Fortunately, mud season is not forever. Eventually things will warm up and the combination of sun and wind will create dryer conditions.