Wisconsin highways buckling from extreme heat


The Department of Transportation is warning motorists to watch for buckling pavement on state highways. It’s yet another side effect of an extreme heat wave that’s cooked the Midwest.

A Youtube video shot this week on State Highway 29 near Chippewa Falls shows an SUV hitting a buckled section of pavement at speed and being launched into the air before crashing back down. It’s a dramatic example of what happens when concrete bakes under extreme heat. Don Miller is a deputy administrator with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. He says sections of concrete on state highways are connected by expansion joints. But Miller says when air temperatures approach 100 degrees those joints can fail, “It’s designed to expand and contract and these areas become stressed with the hot temperature when the pavement exceeds 114 degrees and the pavement buckles in the areas, unfortunately.”

Miller says there were more than 20 pavement buckles on state highways Thursday. He expects more before the heat breaks on Friday. “Many years we don’t even have that kind of a temperature range but this year, unfortunately, we’ve got some extreme temperatures so we see a bit of this happening.”

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Jack Gerlach is Chippewa County’s Highway Operations Manager. He declined an interview but says that the dramatic highway buckle that sent the SUV flying had been growing since late June but “popped” on the afternoon of July 1. Gerlach says highway crews fixed the buckle a few hours after it was reported.

The DOT urges motorists to report pavement buckling by calling 911.

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