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Weather causes problems for Missouri highways and homes

September 23, 1999
By: Stacy Covitz
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Trees and foliage aren't the only things bowing to the pressure of this year's drought.

Hot and dry weather is causing certain state highways to shoot asphalt into the air and some Missouri homes to sink.

Jim Coleman, spokesman for the Missouri Department of Transportation, said during days of repeated high temperatures, the pavement can buckle and expand beyond the capabilities of the expansion joints.

"If the pressure on the highways is too much, what it does in essence is blow up," Coleman said. "It has no place to go, so it goes up. Sometimes this can result in the pavement rising, creating a bump of a foot or more, and sometimes pieces of pavement are shot into the air."

Coleman said one of the areas where this has happened this year is along Highway 63 between Jefferson City and Columbia. Although no major accidents have occurred, Department of Transportation crews have fixed several spots along the road this summer.

Sudden explosions of pavement are the exception, rather than the rule on highways during droughts, Coleman said, adding that if any part of a highway rises too much, Department of Transportation crews will fix the spot immediately.

Exploding highways aren't the only man-made victims of this year's weather. Drought is also causing problems with Missouri homes.

Sharon Martin, who works with Foundation Recovery Systems in Jefferson City, said her company has been busier than normal this year, as large numbers of house foundations have succumbed to sinking soil.

"If the soil around your foundation drops several inches, then your home is going to drop in proportion to that," Martin said. "You'll see cracking, your doors won't shut properly and your windows won't shut properly, because the house is getting kind of a twisting."

Martin said business usually picks up for her company in August and September, but this year has been more active because of the drought.

Unfortunately, for both highways and homes, there is little anyone can do to prevent destruction.

"We have no way of predicting when or where the situation will occur," Coleman said.

Martin also said there is little homeowners can do to prepare for sinking soil.