Sweltering Heat Taking A Toll On Oklahoma Roads

Monday, August 2nd 2010, 4:23 pm
By: News On 6

By Lacie Lowry, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- That heat is taking a toll on more than just people. A small stretch of U.S. Highway 75 near Ramona buckled in the heat Sunday, closing both northbound lanes.

Concrete expands in the heat and can lead to major problems. The City of Tulsa has already seen two cases this summer and the Oklahoma Department of Transportation deals with it about six times a year.

It's oh no for ODOT.

Repair crews are scrambling to fix the nine-inch concrete buckle on U.S. Highway 75 that's forced cars to drive on the shoulder near Ramona.

"This is the widest one I've ever had, but we've had a lot of them," Brian Sutton, project supervisor, said.

Concrete pavement is rigid and as it heats, it expands. It has to go somewhere and it usually bursts at the seams or where it's weak.

"It could literally explode," said Mark Zishka, ODOT Construction Engineer.

Zishka explains what could happen next.

"The forces may actually just push those two panels up into the air, which will create a ramp if traffic hits that," he said.

The hotter it gets, the more expansion you are going to get. When you get consecutive 100 plus degree days, road buckling is more common.

The heat is also beating up on streets in Tulsa. City crews had to repair several concrete panels around town in June and July that exploded in the heat.

"Sometimes it can be a major problem like on 71st and Harvard," Tim McCorkell, Tulsa Street Maintenance Manager, said. "All the traffic from the westbound lanes had to be diverted on the eastbound side."

The city sees heat-related road problems a couple of times each year.

"You can have 100-110 degree temperature for a month and it may not happen, then you may have an area that just expands more than another," McCorkell said.

While the roadway can be fixed, the more serious concern is workers in this heat.

"It's a killer. Stay wet, drink, take breaks, trade off, that's all we can do," Sutton said.

8/1/2010 Related Story: Heat Is Forcing Hundreds To Call Tulsa Fire Department Daily For Help

EMSA responded to seven heat sickness calls Monday. Paramedics have responded to at least 15 calls since Saturday and they're expecting a lot more.

See a list of warnings and advisories

Meanwhile, ODOT is working around the clock to fix the buckle on U.S. Highway 75. Traffic is expected to running smoothly again sometime next week. Until then, expect delays through that area.