Potholes are keeping Bob Hodson busy.
Hodson, a courtesy van driver for Laird-Noller Ford, spends his days transporting unlucky car owners whose vehicles need repairs after pothole damages. That makes it harder for him to avoid joining the ranks of the victims.
"I drive around here all day long," Hodson said as he pumped gas at the Amoco station at 23rd and Louisiana. "You just can't drive around here without hitting a pothole.
"It's bad to drive down the wet streets and you can't tell if it's a puddle or a pothole until you drop in," he said.
Officials say the winter of 2001 has been the worst since 1992. Snows, thaws and subsequent refreezing are breaking down roads, they say, causing potholes to multiply.
City crews have been beefed up to attack the problem, but there are more potholes than people to patch them.
"Even the ones we patch, the next day we've got to patch them again," said Tom Orzulak, city street superintendent.
Orzulak's department has put 22 employees to work in four crews repairing potholes normally a single three-person crew handles the task.
The department also has stockpiled patching materials.
The street division used 25 tons of cold-mix asphalt in its patching operations Monday, even as the price of asphalt increased from $30 to $50 a ton.
The city also has been receiving more calls to its pothole hot line at 832-3456.
Staffers use the information to assign repair crews, giving priority to high-traffic and high-speed roads before patching holes in residential areas.
Back at Amoco, the consensus among customers was this winter has been the worst pothole year ever.
"I've lived here all my life," Bruce Banning said. "I can't remember it being this bad."
Orzulak, who has worked on city streets for 22 years, said it has been this bad but rarely.
"People don't have a long memory," he said. "This is the worst one till the next time. Then that'll be the worst one."