Manitoba drivers have already made a whopping 1,914 pothole-related insurance claims this year — almost four times higher than the total number in 2021.
Where normally Manitoba Public Insurance would have logged between 200 to 300 such damage claims by now, 2022 has brought an avalanche, as vehicles plunged into open spaces on streets that often resembled lunar landscapes.
In April alone, MPI received an astonishing 871 pothole-related damage claims — 1,200 per cent higher than the average of 64 for the month.
Of the 1,914 total, 1,699 are from Winnipeg.
Prior to 2022, the highest pothole claims year in Winnipeg (since 2011) was 709 in 2014; the lowest was 267 in 2012.
In the month of April alone, 802 damage claims were filed in Winnipeg — higher than any of the annual numbers in Manitoba in the last decade.
Taylor Reid, a manager at Donvito Collision & Glass in Winnipeg, said its mechanics know how bad the potholes are, because they’re on the front line of fixing the damage caused.
"This is the worst year we’ve ever seen," Reid said Friday. "I’ve been in this business for 13 years and never seen it like this.
"Customers are coming in needing tires replaced and rims repaired. There are a lot of suspension control claims. People are saying a lot of it happens when the pothole is filled with water and they don’t see it."
For motorists who go through Autopac for repairs, the memories of the pothole could linger longer than the damage caused, Reid said. Depending how MPI assesses the incident, motorists could lose points — and with it, pay more annually for insurance.
"The bills for repairs can be up to a few hundred dollars and even up to $1,000," he said. "A lot of people, it’s about 50-50, don’t bother going through MPI. They pay it themselves."
A MPI spokeswoman said pothole-related claims are not considered at fault, but the insurer does analyze individual claims along with aggravating factors, which could affect points in the end.
Ken Allen, a spokesman for the City of Winnipeg public works department, provided statistics which show just how bad the pothole picture is.
Allen said there have been 120,231 repaired so far in 2022, compared to 49,699 during the same time period in 2021. (The city repaired a total of 140,569 potholes by the end of 2021.)
As well, Allen said the city has received more pothole complaints: 8,671 calls logged by 311 so far this year, compared to 1,896 last year by this time. (The city totalled 3,589 pothole calls in 2021.)
It can all be blamed on Mother Nature, he said.
"Weather, heavy accumulation of snow from back-to-back blizzards, which resulted in a high degree of snow melt runoff. Extended cold and wet conditions and freeze/thaw cycles until the end of April, which also delayed the start of spring cleanup, as well."
Heather Mack, CAA Manitoba government and community relations manager, said the auto advocacy group has also noted the impact. In the month of April, she said, there were 121 tow and winch calls for vehicles sidelined due to potholes — a jump of 40.7 per cent from the year before.
While June has so far logged a leap of 26.5 per cent from the same period last year, May’s increase was more moderate (eight per cent), CAA said.
"It’s just a perfect storm for potholes this year," Mack added. "There were points this spring where I don’t know how you could have avoided the potholes — there were so many."
The rash of road damage also influenced this year’s CAA vote for province’s worst road.
"Saskatchewan Avenue was the worst road in Winnipeg, and it’s because of all of the potholes," Mack said.
With the municipal election set for fall, CAA will again be pushing Winnipeg to put more money into road repairs.
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.