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Potholes emerging as snow melts, an annual problem that’s worse than ever, officials say | CBC News

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The weather is warming and the snow is starting to disappear, and that means the potholes are back — with a vengeance. 

Manitoba Public Insurance says its already seen almost half of its total pothole-related claims from last March. 

“They’re terrible,” said spokesman Brent Johnson. “Usually we get a break from pothole season when it’s 40 below and there’s not that freeze-thaw cycle. Maybe the patching crews can catch up on things because we’re not producing so many potholes.” 

“It’s just continuous and I feel for the crews because it must feel hopeless for them, but with this mild winter that we’ve had it’s just been wild this year.” 

Some drivers are feeling the effects of the pothole problem first-hand. 

Winnipegger Kevin Ramberran said he had a run-in with “one of the most aggressive potholes” he’s ever seen just a few weeks ago. Three other cars that had just hit the same pothole were dealing with tire damage when he pulled over.

“And as I was waiting, two more people pulled up behind me,” he said. “We were all exchanging photos and pictures so that we could all, collectively if we needed to, prove evidence. CAA cars pulling up left, right and centre — it was nuts and it was in the middle of Portage, second lane in, just the one of the worst potholes. 

The potholes are also causing concern for cyclists. 

Robin Dyck says the impact is much greater on a bicycle than in a car. And while she sympathizes with those who have to make expensive claim, those on a bike face the greater risk.

“As a cyclist you’re putting your body and your life on the line,” Dyck said. 

Pothole reports rise

A white vehicle's front-right tire drives through a hole.
The City of Winnipeg says 22,600 potholes were filled in February, when around 3,000 is considered ‘normal.’ (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Manitoba Public Insurance says it has already dealt with 98 pothole-related claims by  March 10. That’s almost half of the 204 pothole-related claims made in the same month last year. In March 2022, 622 pothole claims were reported, according to MPI. 

Last month saw 406 pothole-related claims, MPI said. It’s a staggering number compared with the 86 pothole-related claims in February last year, 55 in 2022 and 32 in 2021. 

The City of Winnipeg says 22,600 potholes were filled last month, when 3,000 is considered “normal” for February, a according to a statement sent to CBC News. So far this month, 7,038 potholes have been filled, the statement says. 

As for 311 pothole reports, the city said in its statement 518 were filed from March 1-12, a major increase from 97 reported last year and 56 in March 2022. 

There were 821 pothole reports made to 311 last month, compared with 285 in February 2023 and 22 the year prior. 

‘This is just depressing,’ driver says 

“That’s just depressing, we’re waging a war that we’re losing at this point,”Johnson said.

Autobody shop owners are seeing the damage first-hand. 

Brian McKenzie, owner and operator of Ness Auto Service, says customers are arriving with blown out tires and rim damage, and it seems the problem gets worse every year.  

The shop has done about 27 tire replacements in the last few weeks and more than 10 rim repairs, he said.

“Normally we’ll get, I’d say 10,11 in the spring with tires blown out, pinched side walls because of the potholes,” he said. “But we just started and we got this many already. We still have weeks to go before the roads are dried out, so who knows.”

McKenzie says he understands the frustration of the drivers coming into the shop. 

“They’re pissed,” he said. “They’re very upset. A lot of them are phoning 311 and they’re, like, ‘The city should be paying for this’. … Some of these cars today are such low-profile tires, you’re looking at $300 bucks a tire.”

McKenzie’s also dealt with a pesky pothole right near his shop. After phoning 311 repeatedly, he took matters into his own hands, taking gravel from the side parking lot and filling the hole so people pulling into the shop weren’t hitting it. 

“That shouldn’t be like that,” he said. 

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