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Heatwave temperatures may force councils to use gritters to stop roads melting as Met Office warns of extreme heat by Sunday

Gritters could be deployed to help stop the nation's roads from melting as temperatures continue to soar.

There are concerns that the prolonged scorching weather, which has prompted the Met Office to issue a rare Amber warning for heat, could begin softening the surface on our roads.

While council gritters are ordinarily only mobilised in winter when freezing temperatures require them to scatter salt on roads and pavements to stop ice forming, it seems they could have another job to do as authorities respond to the heatwave and many are now putting teams on standby.

The gritters could spread sand or grit to try and help the roads remain stable
The gritters could spread sand or grit to try and help the roads remain stable

The extreme heat can cause bitumen in the road surface to soften, which subsequently makes the road stickier and risks it being dented or damaged particularly by heavier vehicles. But a scattering of grit or sand can absorb any excess bitumen and help stabilise the surface.

Hampshire County Council is among the local authorities to say it is prepared to deploy teams should the roads begin to buckle under the heat - using machines to spread light dustings of sand - while Lincolnshire County Council put one of its gritters on standby during last month's hot spell when the mercury tipped 30C.

An A-road in Suffolk was also closed last month for a short period of time when parts of the surface melted in the heat. The A140 was shut by police when it became unsafe because of damage caused by the soaring temperature.

The areas most likely to be targeted by any vehicles this week are those with older road surfaces, in rural locations and which are south facing, according to reports.

A spokesman for the Local Government Association said: “Snow and ice are the last thing on most people’s minds at the moment and I’m sure there’s been a lot of head-scratching if they’ve seen our gritters out on the roads in the height of summer.

"However, our gritting teams are once again playing a vital role in keeping the country’s roads safe for motorists.

"This proactive work helps reduce the potential damage high temperatures can inflict on our roads, so keeping them safe and limiting disruption.

"Councils will continue to monitor road temperatures and once the weather cools will begin carrying out repairs if needed.”

Gritters are normally seen in winter spreading salt to stop ice forming
Gritters are normally seen in winter spreading salt to stop ice forming

The amber weather warning for extreme heat has been issued for much of the UK - with suggestions that the UK Health Security Agency could be forced to declare a national emergency for 'level four' heat should temperatures look like they will break all records by Sunday.

Households are being encouraged by water companies and the Environment Agency to use water wisely as the ongoing temperatures place additional pressure on reserves while the RSPCA is urging dog owners to be cautious when walking pets in the heat. Network Rail has said it may also be forced to introduce speed restrictions on stretches most affected by the hot weather.

The warmest day currently on record for the UK is the 38.7C scorcher recorded at Cambridge Botanic Garden in July 2019.

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