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Why roads in the Pacific Northwest buckled under extreme heat

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During last weekend’s deadly heatwave, some roads in the Pacific Northwest buckled. Workers ventured out in blistering conditions to put cracked concrete and asphalt byways back together. Steel drawbridges were doused with water to make sure they wouldn’t swell shut under the oppressive heat.

The heat dome that sat over the region provided a brutal stress test of its roadways, some of which couldn’t withstand multiple days of record-breaking temperatures. It’s something that’s happened before, in Washington, Wisconsin, South Dakota, and anywhere else experiencing extreme heat waves.

“You can design something to work in a very hot temperature or not. That’s not the problem.” Steve Muench, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Washington says. The problem is that the current heat defies engineering expectations. Fixing that bigger problem will take engineering, planning, and a whole lot of public willpower.

Why can’t these roads handle the heat?

Different kinds of roads behave very differently under heat. In the US, roads are typically made of one of two materials — asphalt or concrete.

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A road that buckled in the recent heat.
Washington State Department of Transportation North via Twitter

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Click the link below for the article:

https://www.theverge.com/2021/7/5/22559961/heat-roads-washington-oregon-climate-infrastructure

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