The woman pulled into Hamad Tire at high noon Wednesday. Her red Chevy was wearing a doughnut. And it was neither glazed nor filled with custard.
It’s pothole season and like so many other drivers, Janine Harton of Kent has hit her share this year.
“This is the third tire I have had to replace this year because of potholes,” said the 27-year-old University of Akron student. “I do a lot of driving around here and in Cleveland, which has at least 60 potholes on every street. OK, I’m exaggerating, but it’s ridiculous.”
Charlie and Mike Hamad, whose father, Chuck, owns the place in Akron and three other locations, stood at the counter.
“This year, tire replacements because of potholes, per location, are 10 to 20 a day. Last year, it was maybe four to eight. And that’s on the high side,” Mike Hamad said. “We have had more single replacements [of tires] from potholes this year than probably the last three winters — combined.”
Rims are another story.
“The last couple of years, we had two or three people come in for rims each week because of damage,” Mike Hamad said. “This year, we get two or three a day at each of our four locations.”
For today’s average vehicle, he said, the cost of a tire and rim with installation is about $225.
Throughout the area, businesses that sell or repair things like tires, rims, tie rods and ball joints have been busy.
When asked if he has been busy because of the potholes, Dan Swiger, owner of Dan’s American Tire in Canton, chuckled.
“We’ve been constantly busy with bent rims and other tire issues. On Saturday, we had seven people here in two hours” who had hit potholes, he said.
One of his customers complained that he had received a ticket for going left of center to avoid a pothole.
“Yep, it’s bad out there this year,” he added.
Try not to blame
Still, Swiger added, it’s unfair to blame the municipalities because the weather has prevented them from keeping up with the problem.
“It’s probably knocking the alignments out of cars, but you don’t really want to do anything about those until the roads are patched,” said Wayne Vanaman of Van’s Tire in Kent.
They won’t get patched anytime soon. A major snowstorm appears headed our way Sunday into Monday.
Various weather prognosticators are calling for anywhere between 4 and 18 inches in the Akron area, and a possible ice storm in southern Ohio.
National Weather Service meteorologist Kristen Schepel in Cleveland said her organization is not yet offering a snowfall prediction because its policy is to wait until 48 hours before the first flake or raindrop will fall.
“[Weather] models don’t do well past 48 hours out,” she said. “What I am saying is we are on the northern periphery of it. Depending on what track this storm decides to take, we could get a lot of snow or a little snow.”
The only glimpse of hope offered by the weather service will come Saturday when temperatures are expected to flirt with the 40s before plummeting again Sunday and Monday.
So for the foreseeable future, customers will continue to flood tire shops.
“We have done more than usual,” said salesperson Toby Confer at Parrish-McIntyre Tire in Medina, noting the shop has been busy helping folks with things like bent rims and damaged tires.
Canton resident Shawn Kuchta, 39, who drives to work in Garfield Heights, was at Hamad for a bent rim on his Lincoln SUV. It was his second pothole incident this season.
“I also have a Honda Civic that I blew out a tire on it two weeks ago,” he lamented. “I recently got a new car and I won’t even drive it because of the potholes.”
Hamad Tire is located just a few blocks from the Goodyear Tire & Rubber’s former corporate headquarters, a place once bustling with men and women making tires.
“Here we are in the founding place of rubber. You would think that someone would develop some synthetic hard road or something,” Kuchta said, laughing.
Kuchta is a software engineer at Prestige Delivery Systems, a courier company.
“I can’t even tell you how much the potholes have impacted our driver’s vehicles,” he said of the independent contractors who work for the company.
There’s no such thing as simply repairing a tire that’s hit a pothole, Mike Hamad said.
“If you whack a pothole hard enough to hurt your tire, you can’t repair. You can’t fix a pothole-damaged tire,” he said.
Kuchta admits that he could be angry about the pothole epidemic, but the logical part of him understands.
“Normally, people are pretty positive about it [just having to replace a tire]. They are glad they didn’t do more damage,” said Mike Hamad, who greeted customers with a smile and sometimes a song — routinely whistling Disney’s It’s a Small World. “People are mad at themselves for not seeing the pothole. They understand it’s pothole season.”
But some have found ways to entertain themselves as they’re dodging the craters. One Fairlawn resident says he’s created a game called “pothole pinball.”
“Since I drive the same route to and from work each day I usually know where most of the major potholes are at. I assign points to cars when they hit a pothole,” Bill Hauser said. “It is usually 100 points if it is just a little bounce, up to 1,000 points if I see the bottom of the car hitting the pavement. On some of the roads, a person can add up points very quickly.
He added, “The problem is while I’m tallying the score for others, I usually forget and score some points myself.”
Beacon Journal staff writer Jim Carney contributed to this report. Kim Hone-McMahan can be reached at 330-996-3742 or firstname.lastname@example.org.