Potholes are disappearing by the tens of thousands around Sonoma County, and we owe it to the easy winter.

That statement may sound strange, but the little rain so far this winter has allowed county roads crews to catch up on pothole repairs.

In fact, in the last six months of 2011, the county patched 48,530 potholes, 54 percent more than the 31,535 potholes that were filled in the last half of 2010. From July 2010 through June 2011, crews fixed a total of 97,342 potholes.

The workers don't actually count the number of potholes they fix. Instead, the county Department of Transportation and Public Works has developed a formula for counting. It's figured out how much material is needed to fill the typical pothole and calculates the number of potholes based on how much material is sent out with patching crews.

The department's also figured out how much the average pothole costs to fix. For the year ending June 2010, it was $17.11 a pothole. That dropped to $17.01 a pothole for the year ending June 2011.

If the winter remains mild, Tom O'Kane, deputy director of the department, said it's likely the department will have money left over because of less overtime for crews out working in storms and it probably will devote the funds to such road maintenance as cutting back plants and trees along roads and fixing ditches.

O'Kane noted the county has far more potholes to deal with than a typical roads department responsible for 1,382 miles of roads, as Sonoma County is.

"We should be dealing with 10,000 to 15,000 a year — we were at 97,000 last year," he said.

Road Warrior