Skip to main content

Only a month into the summer, we've had an entire season's worth of extreme weather--and the nation's infrastructure is feeling the pinch.

Among some of the higher-profile incidents:

  • A US Airways commuter jet got stuck in Washington when 100-degree weather caused the runway to turn to putty.
  • A DC Metro subway train derailed on a track that had developed a kink due to the heat.
  • A Chicago-area nuclear plant had to get permission to keep operating when its cooling water rose to 102 degrees--two degrees above its permitted limit.
  • Several roads in East Texas have developed huge cracks due to shifting soil under them.

The issue?  This high heat is way, way over the design limits for steel and concrete.

According to Tom Scullion, a transportation engineer at Texas A&M, it may be about to get worse for our roads.

Highways, Mr. Scullion noted, are designed for the local climate, taking into account things like temperature and rainfall. “When you get outside of those things, man, all bets are off.” As weather patterns shift, he said, “we could have some very dramatic failures of highway systems.”
Roads aren't the only problem.  Washington's subway system is facing the unique problems of being located so close to the humidity of the South.
When railroads install tracks in cold weather, they heat the metal to a “neutral” temperature so it reaches a moderate length, and will withstand the shrinkage and growth typical for that climate. But if the heat historically seen in the South becomes normal farther north, the rails will be too long for that weather, and will have an increased tendency to kink. So railroad officials say they will begin to undertake much more frequent inspection.
Heat's not the only problem.  The recent spate of storms has utilities who never even considered burying their lines--a way of life in the North--to give serious thought to it.  For instance, Pepco, the main electric company in the DC area, rethought its stance on burial after the June 29 derecho--one of five storms in the last two years that left customers in the dark for five days or more.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site