OMAHA — The intense heat wave enveloping much of the country is
causing metal railroad rails and asphalt roads in some Midwestern
states to expand and buckle, forcing transportation officials to
scramble to make repairs and causing rail operators to pay
extra-close attention to the safety of their tracks.

Omaha-based Union Pacific Railroad said Wednesday that the heat
has affected the operations of its entire northern division and
that it is having workers inspect its tracks up to twice a day.

“In extreme heat, you get a phenomenon called a ‘track buckle’
or ‘sun kink,’” Union Pacific spokesman Mark Davis said. “When you
get extreme heat and the metal rail wants to expand, it looks for a
weak spot in the track structure itself to do that.

“What will literally happen is, the track will bend in either
direction at the weakest point of the track structure.”

Crews often cut out sections of track, rejoin the ends and weld
the track back together to handle the heat-related expansion, Davis
said, which has kept the railroad from having any serious problems
with rail kinking during the heat wave.

But the heat has forced the railroad to slow its trains by 10 to
20 mph, Davis said.

“It may reduce the efficiency of the overall operations on a
corridor, but the temporary reductions of efficiencies outweigh the
possibility of a derailment,” said Union Pacific spokesman Mark

Excessive heat also will cause concrete to expand, which can
lead to buckling along roads, bridges, sidewalks and other
thoroughfares made of the material.

The intense heat in Oklahoma was blamed for sending at least one
motorist to the hospital. On July 10, a section of U.S. Highway 412
buckled in Pawnee County, causing a motorcyclist to go airborne. He
was  injured seriously, but survived.

At a major intersection along the same highway in Enid, Okla.,
the heat caused the road to heave Saturday. And on Monday, repairs
began on

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