WVDOH says concrete roads can ‘blow up’ in extreme heat

CHARLESTON — West Virginia Division of Highways (WVDOH) road crews recently completed urgent repairs on a section of US 119 near Julian that buckled due to extreme heat. The repairs were finished within 24 hours of the damage occurring.

On Tuesday, July 9, 2024, a section of US 119 buckled in the heat. US 119 is constructed of concrete slabs in the area where the damage occurred. Joe Pack, P.E., WVDOH Chief Engineer of Operations, explained that under extreme heat, such roadway damage is not uncommon.

When concrete gets hot, Pack explained, it expands. Concrete road slabs have expansion joints placed in between them to take this expansion into account as the slabs press against one another.

But under conditions of extreme heat the slabs may expand more than the expansion joints can handle. When that happens and the slabs are pushing against each other, the only place they can go is up. Engineers refer to the phenomenon as a “blow up.”

The graphic below explains how blow-ups can occur.

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