High temperatures and intense heat caused the pavement of four eastbound lanes of Route 50 in Prince George's County to buckle Sunday afternoon, forcing the State Highway Administration to close the lanes to traffic.
"Imagine almost like there's a huge tree root that heaves up a huge section of pavement," said David Buck, a SHA spokesman.
The buckled section is about 50 feet long by 40 feet wide, between Routes 197 and 301, Buck said.
Word of the damaged roadway first came into the SHA about 3 p.m., and forced the closure of the HOV lane and the highway's three left lanes. The right lane remained open, and the right shoulder was also opened to traffic, Buck said.
Buck said traffic backed up for about three-quarters of a mile Sunday, when temperatures reached 100 degrees at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.
Many travelers in the state use Route 50 to get across the Bay Bridge and to beach towns on the Eastern Shore. That the damage occurred to eastbound lanes on a Sunday, when traffic on the highway's westbound lanes is heavier as people return from the beach, was lucky, he said.
Crews were scheduled to begin removing the buckled pavement starting Sunday night, though rain in the area was expected to complicate the process, Buck said.
Once the top few inches of pavement are removed, crews will assess whether the roadway sustained more structural damage as well, Buck said.
Repairs were expected to continue into Monday.
Buck said he was not aware of any accidents that had occurred because of the heat damage to the roadway.