Like much of the nation, Utahns, their lawns, their gardens - and the state's overheated highways - will keep cookin' in oven-like temperatures.

Although the Salt Lake area hasn't surpassed the 98-degree high readings of June 16 and 19, it was still a sizzling 97 degrees Tuesday at the Salt Lake International Airport. And the prospects are slim this week for much of a respite from the heat.The heat and the lack of precipitation is already drying up streams and causing highway surfaces to pop and buckle.

A three-lane section of I-15 near Ogden "blew up" Tuesday afternoon, forcing rush-hour traffic to detour onto Riverdale Road.

Northbound I-15 was completely closed between the Riverdale Road and 31st Street exits in Ogden, said Clint Topham, district director for the Utah Department of Transportation. Emergency crews were mobilized, and the asphalt was temporarily repaired within four hours.

"Motorists were upset because they didn't know why they were being rerouted," Topham said. No accidents were reported, but several cars overheated as a result of the traffic jam.

Topham said expansion joints are built every few feet in the highway, but over time the joints become filled with dirt and sand, which prevents the blocks from expanding with the hot temperatures. "Sometimes it just blows up," he said. "It has to go somewhere."

Such buckles force the asphalt to rise about a foot. "It makes a good ramp for cars to take off from," Topham joked.

According to Topham, many UDOT workers said Tuesday's road buckling was as bad as they had ever seen. Four similar incidents have occurred this season, but not to the same extent, he said.

William J. Alder, meteorologist in charge of the Salt Lake office of the National Weather Service, said the mercury ran about 7 degrees above normal, 81.5, during the first 21 days of June. Lows averaged 59 degrees, which is 7.1 degrees above the normal average low temperature.

June 1961 was the warmest June on record at Salt Lake International, when the temperature averaged 6.4 degrees above normal during that month.