Giant sinkhole opens up on major Saskatoon road

A sinkhole large enough to drive a car into opened up on a major Saskatchewan road causing traffic chaos.

The three-metre wide chunk of road opened up on Idylwyld Drive north of 39th Street just before 9 a.m. Monday forcing thousands of motorists to take several detours.

It was caused by a break in a 20-centimetre pipe under the road causing water to swirl beneath the asphalt and led to the sinkhole.

"They are totally unpredictable," said public works manager Pat Hyde to the Saskatoon Star Phoenix. "This could have been happening for days or weeks."

The city received no reports of vehicles falling into the hole, but one commenter on Yahoo! Canada News joked, "I lost my car in there. It's on top of the Jeep, and under the BMW."

Holes are created because freezing and thawing cycles put pressure along underground pipes causing them to become weak and break. Snow melts forcing moisture into the cracks of roads and when it freezes it expands and makes the small cracks into bigger holes. The warmer winter across much of Canada is resulting in potholes being spotted earlier than normal.

Saskatoon isn't the place in Canada to have a huge sinkhole. In November, a 30-metre long one opened up in the Toronto area on Bayview Ave. north of Steeles Ave. closing the street for a week. In September, a 10-metre long hole opened up near Woodbine and Steeles avenues also in the Toronto area closing part of the road for some time. And in Vancouver, a sinkhole swallowed a 14-metre long chuck of SE Marine Drive.

"The road just let go," said Murray Wightman, manager of street operation for Vancouver to CBC.

The two Toronto sinkholes were caused by water main breaks and the Vancouver one is believed to be a result of the same thing.

But on a worldwide scale, these Canadian sinkholes are relatively small. In 2010, a 60-metre deep crater opened up in Guatemala City after it was hit by a tropical storm that dumped a metre of rain and caused mudslides. The sinkhole gobbled several buildings and nearly an entire intersection. According to CNN, there were no reports of death related to the sinkhole, but the tropical storm claimed more than 175 lives.

As for the Saskatoon sinkhole, city crews plan to have the hole temporarily repaired by Tuesday, but a permanent fix will not happen until the city receives its first shipment of asphalt for the year. Hyde said this will happen within the month.

He told the Star Phoenix, "We'll just backfill and compact it, gravel the top of it and once we have asphalt we'll come back and make a permanent fix."

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