Heat Wave Causes Exploding Sidewalks and a Blood-Red Reservoir in Texas

Doomsayers perk up as roaches make themselves at home, reservoir turns red.

August 2, 2011, 1:04 PM

Aug. 3, 2011— -- Doomsayers are always on the lookout for signs of the Apocalypse, and few have been more captivating than record-setting temperatures scorching the nation these days. Oklahoma City and Washington D.C., had the warmest July on record. This week, temperatures felt as high as 115 in 18 states, including Georgia, Iowa and Florida. Today, after 33 straight days of triple-digit temperatures, Dallas blisters at 108.

With the elevated temperatures has come even more compelling fodder for the students of prophesy, including a reservoir stained blood-red in Texas, exploding sidewalks in Iowa, snail-slow railroad trains in the Midwest and ant infestations in Florida.

Here are some examples.

Blood-Red Reservoir in Texas

A severe, crop-killing drought in Texas has turned the O.C. Fisher Reservoir blood red.

The reservoir in San Angelo State Park, in West Texas, which is almost entirely dry, is stagnated and stained red by a bacteria that grows in low-oxygen conditions.

With dead fish floating on its surface, the reservoir is the lowest one in West Texas, according to Bobby Farquhar, regional director for Inland Fisheries with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

"The red's not really a problem," Farquhar said. "That's just a particular kind of bacteria that grows under low-oxygen condition. Due to drought, a lot of lakes in West Texas are low. This one is the lowest, so it's drying up first. We need rain badly to fill up all lakes in West Texas. "

Farquhar said he had heard about apocalypse believers commenting on the blood-red reservoir signaling the end of the world. But the scientist said the red growth, called Chromatiaceae bacteria, is a "naturally-occurring phenomenon."

Exploding Pavements

Pavement blowups in Iowa have the state Department of Transportation urging motorists to pay special attention to pavement surfaces when driving during afternoons with 90-degree or hotter temperatures.

"The wet weather in parts of the state combined with the extreme heat is a recipe for pavement blowups," director John Selmer said in a statement.

Pavement blowups occur when thermal expansion forces the pavement to buckle and shatter, according to the DOT. They occur suddenly and can put the state out of $400,000 annually in road repairs.

Likewise in Texas, roads are falling victim to extreme temperatures in the panhandle. Moisture from the winter months stays in the asphalt cracks all year and expands when affected by the heat. Road explosions occur when the moisture finds a week point in the asphalt.

"The problem is we never know where they're going to happen," Texas Department of Transportation spokesman Paul Braun said. "So our crews are constantly patrolling the highways and freeways that we are responsible for and looking for these blowups in hot weather like this."

Snail-Snow Railroad Trains

As the Midwestern states stave off the heat, metal railroad rails there expand and buckle and railroad trains slow by 20 miles per hour.

Because of the heat, Mark Davis of the Union Pacific Railroad said, the metal rails expand and could buckle out of alignment, causing a derailment. To ensure that trains operate safely during extreme heat conditions, the company removes inches from the tracks and slows the trains.

"As the rail expands, our track inspectors and track employees will literally cut out inches of rail in an effort to keep the track itself from buckling," Davis said. "When you slow a train down, it has a less impact on the track if it is expanding."

Missouri, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado and more will experience slower railroad trains until the heat subsides.

"Once the temperature stabilizes," Davis said, "then we can begin looking at increasing the speeds again back to where they were."

Heat Wave Turns Reservoir Red; Sidewalks Explode

The combination of heat and a lack of rain has caused further devastation in the drought-ravaged south-central United States. With soaring temperatures outside, humans are not the only ones seeking more temperate climates indoors.

Ants and cockroaches, likewise parched, might seek water in people's homes.

"You've got a constant supply of water from households and a decreasing supply of water from the environment so the result is more movement indoors to get more water," said Joseph Kunkel, a University of Massachusetts biology professor who researched cockroaches for 25 years.

In southwest Florida, ants are invading local homes and offices, according to local affiliate WZVN.

Cape Coral homeowner Aida Cardona told WZVN that she is under attack, with hundreds of ants invading her home.

Kunkel said that the ants are typically dormant during the winter and more active in the summer months, when they travel in single files into homes in search of a steady food and water supply found in kitchen pantries.

Likewise, he said cockroaches, "independent operators" who "don't care about anyone but themselves," will travel indoors during summer months to escape the scorching heat and search for, "water, food, and a mate, in that order."