By BELINDA SCOTT
WHAT is grey, lurks on the road and shocks you to the backbone if you haven't seen it coming?
It's a pothole, that perennial bugbear of wet-climate drivers, caused when water enters the road pavement and it collapses under the pressure of vehicles, days or weeks after heavy rain.
Potholes are still appearing in roads after last week's rain, but council crews are working on them as fast as possible.
Councils spend a lot of time and money on potholes.
They may not be the biggest ticket item on the maintenance budget but no one ignores them.
"They may be small in the scheme of things, but it's important to get them fixed," said Bellingen Shire Council's director of engineering Ken Wilson.
Mr Wilson said fixing potholes quickly and well was an important part of maintaining roads.
Bellingen Shire Council spends about $1 million a year maintaining the roads in the Bellingen Shire, which includes fixing potholes.
With a bigger road network, Coffs Harbour City Council spends about $2 million a year on maintenance.
Coffs Harbour City Council works manager Allan Hindmarsh said mending potholes consumed
'a reasonable percentage' of the maintenance budget.
Coffs Harbour Council's three road-patching crews have been working at full speed since the rain, beginning on roads with high volumes of heavy traffic.
Mr Hindmarsh said the road network had been in reasonably good condition thanks to the drought, which had allowed crews to get on top of the work, but rain always caused some collapses and pothole crews were still working on rural roads.
Ninety-one-year-old Norman Hoschke and his wife, Ilena, live on the corner of the Jetty's Bent Street, nominated by a number of people as Coffs Harbour's most pothole-patched street.
Mr Hoschke, who has lived on the street for more than 50 years, agrees Bent Street is patchy, but says at least the worst section of the street, between Short and Boambee streets, has been recently resealed.
"Before that it was more patches than original dust seal," he said.
Mr Hoschke said former councillor Jan Strom, a resident of Short Street, had fought a long battle to get Bent Street resealed.
Norman and Ilena Hoschke remember when Bent Street and Jarrett Street were dust tracks through the bladey grass, with the remnants of felled trees lying beside them and a different variety of 'pothole' was a hazard ? holes beside the road filled with old crockery.