Citadel professor weighs in after Ben Sawyer bridge closes due to heat

John Ryan interview

As seen on WCBD – NBC Channel 2, by Sofia Arazoza

If you spent any time outdoors over the holiday weekend, you know it was hot. And the heat isn’t over.

But on Memorial day, the record-breaking temperatures caused major trouble for drivers coming in and out of Sullivan’s Island when the Ben Sawyer swing bride was shut down for hours, and officials say the temperature was to blame.

It was stand still traffic for hours, one driver describing it as a parking lot.

Sullivan’s island officials first confirmed the bridge was inoperable shortly before 3:30pm on Monday.

Engineers with the South Carolina Department of Transportation say the extreme heat caused materials to expand, impacting the opening and closing of the bridge.

Traffic teams re-routed drivers to the Isle of Palms connecter for five hours as SCDOT crews along with the Awendaw/Mclellenville fire department worked to cool down the bridge.

At 9:20pm, the bridge reopened to drivers, but it is still not open for boaters.

Since the cause was first reported, News 2 has gotten several questions about how heat can cause a bridge to malfunction and why it hasn’t happened before, since heat is no stranger to the Lowcountry.

We took those questions to a Civil Engineer professor at the Citadel. He explained heat can cause both steel and concrete to expand, which in this case, caused the materials to interfere, also known as fouling.

We do see hot temperatures often, but this time around we’ve seen continual highs, giving the bridge little time to cool off. Storm Team 2 has reported a record-breaking 100 degrees three days in a row.

SCDOT says maritime traffic will open Wednesday.