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Old Man Winter flipped everyone the bird on his way out of town.

The temperature climbed, the snow melted and the good citizens of Missoula emerged from their hibernation to find the roads disfigured by potholes big enough to bathe in.

Like taxes and allergies, these things have become standard fare during the adolescent-stage of springtime change. For at least the third year in a row, the streets took a bad beating and some unsuspecting Missoula motorists paid the price.

Consider the case of Andrew Presnar and Ashley Bilyeu. The couple was driving down Orange Street last week when suddenly a shin-deep canyon beneath the underpass swallowed their tire whole.

"Our tire basically exploded," Bilyeu says. "We were going [through the underpass] and there was this huge pothole that was filled with water. I tried to miss it but I didn't and I hit it. It sounded like I ran someone over."

She says the city sent her an incident report form to fill out. Once she returns it, she'll have to wait and see if her claim qualifies for insurance coverage.

"Hopefully I get it. It would help," she says. "For that one tire it costs $200."

Not long after Bilyeu's accident, the city closed that stretch of Orange Street to repair the dangerous depression. At the same time, street maintenance crews in bright yellow vests were fanning out across the city—from the pockmarked Hillview Way on the Southside to the treacherous stretch of Second Street on the Northside—with shovels full of steaming asphalt to try and mend our eroded roadways. They've done their best, but fixing potholes ain't exactly a cakewalk.

"It's everything we can do to keep up with them," says Brian Hensel, the city's street superintendent. "... Potholes are popping up like knapweed."

When asked how many holes his crews have dealt with since the big storm, he just laughed before simply saying, "There's a lot." Like everything else around town, the city's pothole hotline (552-6360) has been flooded (with requests).

As for Bilyeu, she's taking it slow after her run-in with the abyss.

"I'm driving around with a doughnut," she says. "I have to be extra careful."

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