ROADS buckle, grass fires erupt as temperatures reach triple digits

Thursday, July 12th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

As Oklahoma's temperatures rose on Wednesday, so did parts of state highways, authorities said.

Most of Oklahoma reached or surpassed 100 degrees, with Alva and Cherokee climbing to 109. Temperatures in southeastern Oklahoma remained in the upper 90s and a severe thunderstorm warning was even issued for LeFlore County.

In Atoka County, parts of U.S. 69 buckled and came apart in both lanes about 6:15 p.m. Passing vehicles kicked up the asphalt chunks, throwing them into windshields, an Oklahoma Highway Patrol dispatcher said.

Several motorists reported damage to their vehicles, but there were no injuries.

The state Transportation Department closed the highway three miles north of Stringtown so crews could make repairs, said Grace Murphree, a patrol dispatcher in Durant.

``We've been having a problem with this in places since it started getting hot around the Fourth of July,'' Murphree said.

One lane was reopened about 7:30 p.m., the patrol said. Crews were expected to finish repair work late Wednesday.

State Highway 51 in Creek County also was closed several miles west of Oklahoma 99 around 8 p.m. Workers repaired sections of the highway that had buckled from the heat and the road was reopened after about an hour.

Wednesday's 102-degree high temperature was the hottest of the year for Oklahoma City, the high reached 101 degrees in Tulsa. On Thursday, the National Weather Service is predicting temperatures that will reach 110 degrees in parts of the state.

The heat has been accompanied by a lack of rainfall in most parts of the state, with Jackson and Tillman counties not getting any precipitation in 44 days. Significant precipitation is considered anything more than one-tenth of an inch.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma City firefighters responded to six grass fires, including one that was started by electricity sparking from a transformer on a power pole, Maj. Brian Stanaland, an Oklahoma City fire department spokesman, said.

Stanaland said the blaze burned about 20 acres. There was no electric outage from the fire. No structures were threatened and no injuries are reported.

Ambulances responded to five calls from people who suffered from heat exhaustion in Oklahoma City, said Lara O'Leary, Emergency Medical Services Authority spokeswoman.

Everyone recovered after being treated at the scene or taken to hospitals. One of those treated included a 27-year-old grocery sacker who passed out in a parking lot in northwest Oklahoma City while loading a vehicle.

``Overall, people are taking it easy, and we're doing pretty good,'' O'Leary said.

The excessive heat also left about 2,500 Oklahoma Gas & Electric customers in central Oklahoma without power for nearly two hours before it was restored.

``It (the heat) puts quite a strain on the system,'' Hartley said of extended periods of hot weather. ``But we're doing well, considering the 100-degree temperatures we're having every day now.''

OG&E officials said the power outage was caused by a burnt jumper.