Why Portland's Roads Exploded During the Heat Wave

Roads literally exploded during the unprecedented hot weather that's been hitting the Pacific Northwest region of the U.S.

    2021/07/08

NSFW    PORTLAND, OREGON — The recent heatwave in the states of Oregon and Washington caused a lot of damage to roadways.

In one post on Twitter, a user based in Portland shared photos of a nearby road and said their house began to shake as the road's concrete started to split. The user wrote: "The house started to shake and we thought it was an earthquake … but no, the road is so hot, it literally buckled!"

Here's how it happened:

Newsweek reports that roads are buckling and breaking apart from the unprecedented hot weather that's been hitting the Pacific Northwest region of the U.S.

In the usually cool Portland, temperatures soared to 47 degrees Celsius on Monday 28 June.

Scientists say the problem is that Oregon's roadways were not designed to survive such heat.

These roadways are made of concrete slabs that contract in cold weather and expand in hot weather. The slabs were shaped with gaps between them, and these gaps are there to create room for the concrete when it expands.

However, these gaps are only big enough to make room for the kind of expansion that happens during normal temperature highs, and the recent heat wave created temperatures so high that the concrete slabs expanded so much that they pushed against each other, causing the slabs to break and buckle.

Roads that were made of asphalt, on the other hand, often became so hot that they became soft like toffee, and thus became deformed by large numbers of heavy vehicles driving over them.

Meanwhile, workers ventured out last week in the blistering heat to put cracked concrete and asphalt roadways back together.

Steel drawbridges were doused with water to make sure they wouldn't swell shut under the oppressive heat.

North of the border, a weather station in Lytton, British Columbia, notched the highest temperature in Canada's recorded history — a mind-melting 121 degrees Fahrenheit, or 49.6 degrees Celsius. Soon after that, the town was destroyed by a wildfire.
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