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Gritters deployed as roads start to melt in Cumbria during the heatwave

A council road gritter spreads sand on a heat-damaged road at Kirkby Thore in Cumbria Photo: PA

A fleet of winter gritters has been sent out in Cumbria as roads begin to 'melt' under the intense heat.

While normally only deployed during a cold snap, three 28 tonne gritters are being used to spread crushed rock dust to protect the roads as blazing sunlight softens the tarmac, according to Cumbria County Council.

Tarmac becomes soft at 50C, and while the air temperature is much lower, the roads can become that hot in direct sunlight.

Tarmac becomes soft at 50C Credit: PA

Cllr Keith Little, Cumbria County Council Cabinet Member for Highways, said: “If the bitumen becomes overheated, this could potentially lead to a loss of shape in the carriageway surface as well as affecting vehicles.

"We have deployed gritters to protect our roads from longer term damage, and also avoiding damage to people’s vehicles.”

Motorists who find any sticky tar on their vehicle are advised to wash it off carefully with warm soap and water.

If any tar still remains, they should use some car polish to clean it off.

Crushed rock dust to protect the roads Credit: PA

It's not the first time soaring temperatures have melted roads.

A section of the M25's surface also melted in 2003, forcing the London motorway to be reduced to two lanes between Junctions 27 and 26.

On Wednesday, Cumbria saw the hottest day in England as the mercury soared to highs of 30.3C in Carlisle.

Tuesday was the year's hottest day so far with a reading 30.6C in Porthmadog, Gwynedd - beating Monday's peak of 30.1 C in West London.

The hot weather is expected to last until the weekend, when temperatures are forecast to slowly drop off.