The Bay Area Got So Hot Yesterday a BART Train Track Actually Warped

There was no train service between the Pleasant Hill and Concord stations for a good amount of time yesterday.

Temperatures continue to soar and break records and leave us all contemplating the best means to cool off. Thousands of PG&E account holders, too, are still contending with occasional power outages as the California grid operator deals with huge spikes in energy pressure.

But what wasn’t likely on your heat wave bingo card was BART suffering service delays — because the track, itself, literally bent under Tuesday’s sweltering heat.

According to the rapid transit agency, the railroad trail between the Pleasant Hill and Concord stations warped slightly amid the day’s 110-degree heat. “Out of an abundance of caution,” BART suspended service between the two so that crews could tend to the problem, waiting until the cool of night to correct the problem and straighten things out — literally.

“Equipment along the track also overheated, preventing us from single tracking around the issue area,” BART tweeted yesterday afternoon after mentioning that the day’s record-breaking heat had caused segments of the track between the two stations to deform, which could potentially cause a train traveling on them to derail. “Our crews will take advantage of cooler overnight temperatures and resurface the track to correct the alignment and restore service in time for the morning’s commute.”

Earlier this summer, a BART train traveling in Concord did, actually, run off the tracks due to the day’s hot conditions. Temperatures on the track on June 21st reached an astounding 140 degrees Fahrenheit, causing the otherwise rigid steel to become malleable and contort away from its original laid positions. 

A BART spokesperson told the San Francisco Chronicle the track had read 25 degrees hotter that day in June than its maximum operating temperature could support; about 50 people had to be evacuated from the derailed train in Concord, but no one was severely hurt; some, however, reported minor injuries that didn’t require hospitalization.

By this morning, everything was A-OK, and service was restored to both tracks between the two stations.

In addition to a massive loss in local biodiversity and time spent finding a hook-up partner with centralized air conditioning, it looks like we can expect BART delays to become a part of our collective climate crisis-defined future. Thank G*d PG&E isn’t responsible for tending to that equipment, at least.

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