Utah’s heat wave: BYU’s measures, road buckles, early school dismissals

Students on BYU campus have been facing extremely high temperatures with the beginning of the Fall 2022 semester. Temperatures across the state of Utah continue to reach high levels, causing road buckles in the I-15 and some Utah school districts to send their students home early. (Hannah Miner)

Temperatures across the state of Utah continue to reach high levels, causing portion of I-15 to buckle and some school districts to send their students home early.

Multiple cities and areas in Utah were listed in a heat advisory or excessive heat warning this week and although the heat wave is expected to be over Wednesday evening, temperatures might not be decreasing as dramatically as it was initially predicted.

Salt Lake City hit a record-breaking high of 107 degrees Fahrenheit on Sept. 7.

When asking Bremen Leak, associate director of sustainability and continuity at BYU, about an explanation regarding the heat wave, he talked about population growth in Utah as a factor.

An increase in population leads to more traffic and therefore, an increase on the gases that trap heat in the atmosphere and thus contribute to global warming.

“Utah continues to grow, we are seeing most of the growth of the state here in Utah Valley, so you are also seeing an increase in traffic and the transportation systems,” Leak said.

Leak said taking advantage of active transportation such as bikes, scooters and police transportation can have a positive impact on the atmosphere and help reduce the effects of global warming.

“I would encourage our BYU community to learn more about the science behind the heat wave and to take simple steps to be part of the solutions,” Leak said. “This might be having a conversation, that may be taking the bus. Simple things like recycling are a way to grow our capacity to do more and be involved in the community.”

Leak emphasized that simple everyday tasks can make a difference.

“Everyone can do something,” Leak said. “We have been encouraged here by BYU faculty members to conserve water. Each individual can have an impact, and in the sustainability office, our primary goal is to increase awareness and engage students and staff in the solutions.”

Another way BYU is fighting the drought and this week’s heat wave is by conserving water.

According to BYU’s Sustainability website, BYU has reduced water usage from faucets and flush valves by 50% by using high-efficiency plumbing fixtures and appliances.

“Moreover, we have replaced water cooled condensers with air-cooled to reduce water consumption. These measures help to keep the environment healthy,” the website says. “Additionally sprinkling systems are designed with optimum dispersion rates and water audits are conducted to ensure ideal efficiency.”

The website also explained how Dining Services integrates locally-grown and organic foods into their menus.

“Food service equipment purchased since the end of 2006 is ‘energy rated’ and uses less gas, electricity, and water than comparable models. In 2008 we took advantage of a new cafeteria, the Commons at the Cannon Center, to install dishwashers that recycle water from previous washes for early rinse cycles in the next washing,” the website says.

Road buckles on I-15

Back in mid July, the Utah Department of Transportation warned of buckling roads during the summer’s heat wave.

Even though Utah has a historical record of high temperatures during the months of July and August, this year the state has experienced a record-breaking heat wave during the first two weeks of September.

“Anecdotally this year it’s been super hot and we have seen road buckling most frequently this year,” Utah Department of Transportation spokesman Mitchell Shaw said. “Last week’s Centerville road buckle at the I-15 couldn’t have happened on a worse time since it was during the evening commute, or at a worse road.”

According to Shaw, the concrete in the I-15 roads is meant to compact and also expand when it is hot.

“If someone is driving in the road and they see the road buckles, we want them to call 911 because it’s not safe to drive in that section of the road,” Shaw said. “Any number of things can happen, including a car crash. So we get alerted when we find out about a buckle and we are out there immediately and it actually only took us about four hours in the case of the Centerville buckle. We go there, we dig out the concrete and we put out new asphalt.”

According to Shaw, the problem with road buckles is that they are impassible to predict and the only thing UDOT can do is keep an eye on the roads, especially during a heat wave.

“To be brutally honest, there’s not a lot that can be done as preventative measures and we just need to be proactive when things like this happen,” Shaw said.

Shaw explained the UDOT is doing an environmental study, which is still in its very early stages, on that Centerville section of the I-15, from Farmington to Salt Lake City.

“Essentially we are gathering information and feedback from people who drive on the road from those cities and studying what we can do and how to get funding to put newer pavement into place, since road buckles are less likely to happen with it,” Shaw said.

Half days to protect students from high temperatures

Box Elder school district Superintendent Steve Carlsen said Box Elder was one of the Utah school districts to kick off classes the latest, on Aug. 29.

Carlsen said the last several years they started school with half days for the first week. However, when school officials looked at the weather extended forecast and saw that the first two weeks of September were going to have extremely high and record breaking temperatures, it was decided to extend the half days until Sept. 7.

“It does concern me because it is not as much of a cool-off day tomorrow as it was initially suggested in the weather forecast,” Carlsen said. “We are suggesting teachers to make sure their students have water bottles and be outside the classrooms to do activities if necessary.”

The weather forecast for Thursday shows a decrease in the temperature, but Utahns will not notice a dramatic difference in the heat. Yet, the Box Elder school district has decided to stick to their decision of going back to full days after Wednesday.

“We have so many families where both parents work and making arrangements to take care of the kids when they get out of school earlier can become a challenge,” Carlsen said.

Box Elder school district’s superintendent also explained how the students’ parents are the main directors of their children’s education and therefore, they can still choose to take their kids out of school early this week.

“We sent an email out to let parents know that if they have a child who has a specific health condition, then they are welcome to keep their children home or pick them up after the first four hours of school,” Carlsen said. “We will make sure the students are caught up with homework even if they leave earlier.”

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