Rutted, icy roads are being blamed for a spike in crashes in and around Winnipeg, but the city says it hopes to have the miserable conditions dealt with as the weather begins to warm this week.
“It’s been really busy these past few days with the roads this way,” said Raheem Tiamiyu, a customer service representative with Dr. Hook Towing.
The vast majority of calls have been from people whose vehicles are stuck after sliding off the roads into ditches or snowbanks.
At least a dozen collisions were reported at the city’s Transportation Management Center just between 6 am and 1 pm on Monday.
When it comes to crashes between vehicles, Dr. Hook reroutes those calls to Champion Towing Ltd. Tahsina Oyshy, a customer rep with that company, estimates they are averaging more than 100 crash calls a day.
“It’s been hectic for the last two to three weeks,” she said.
The phone is also ringing steadily at Penner Auto Body, where manager Dan Roller says claims have jumped significantly for the start of the year.
“We’ve definitely got a lot going on,” he said, noting many people are commenting on the poor condition of the roads, especially when trying to change lanes over the corrugated snow cover.
“The ruts are a little larger than usual so people are a little unfamiliar [with how to handle it], “he said, comparing the process of driving across them with that of a boat going across the wake left by another boat.
Once the wheel hits that slope, it swings the vehicle out and it’s easy to lose control, he says. As for the black ice, that’s a whole other matter that has resulted in ditches being littered with cars.
On his way into work on Monday, Penner says he saw four vehicles, one after another, slide off Lagimodiere Boulevard.
Ken Allen, spokesperson for the City of Winnipeg’s public works department, hopes to clear up the problem soon, saying the frigid temperatures prevented crews from scraping the ruts down to the pavement as they normally would.
“Due to the extremely cold weather conditions experienced in recent days, clearing of major routes, bus routes, and collector streets was undertaken using truck plows,” Allen said in an email to CBC News.
“With the warmer temperatures expected in the coming days, we’ll be switching to grader plows to allow us to get closer to the pavement and break up the accumulated ice and compacted snow more effectively.”
Crews have also been out spreading more sand on roads to help improve traction, he says, adding back lanes, sidewalks and active transportation paths will also be tackled.
Environment Canada’s forecast calls for a high of –2 C in the city on Tuesday and –8 C on Wednesday as the city gets a reprieve from extreme cold warnings that have plagued much of the province over the past two weeks.
The normal daytime high for this time of year is –13 C. The average for this month has been a high of –18.5 but with a few extremes of –25 C and wind chills that made it feel closer to –45.
According to a spokesperson for Manitoba Public Insurance, the preliminary collision count for the week of Jan. 3–9 is now at 2,695. That is expected to increase as some people wait a few days before opening a claim, spokesperson Brian Smiley said in an email.
For the same time last year, the collision count was 1,435. But it’s important to note that COVID-related lockdowns and other restrictions contributed to reduced traffic volumes in 2021, Smiley said.