Tacoma Narrows Bridge Collapses In The Wind (1940)
On Nov. 7, 1940, the Tacoma Narrows Suspension Bridge collapsed due to wind-induced vibrations.
At the time it opened for traffic in 1940, the
Tacoma Narrows Bridge was the third longest suspension bridge in the world.
It was promptly nicknamed "Galloping Gertie," due to its behavior in wind. Not only did the deck sway sideways, but vertical undulations also appeared in quite moderate winds.
Drivers of cars reported that vehicles ahead of them would completely disappear and reappear from view several times as they crossed the bridge.
Attempts were made to stabilize the structure with cables and hydraulic buffers, but they were unsuccessful.
On November 7, 1940, only four months after it opened, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapsed in a wind of 42 mph—even though the structure was designed to withstand winds of up to 120 mph.
The failure came as a severe shock to the engineering community.
Technical experts still disagree on the exact cause of the bridge's destruction, but most agree the collapse had something to do with a complex phenomenon called resonance: the same force that can cause a soprano's voice to shatter a glass.
Tubby, a black male cocker spaniel dog, was the only fatality. Leonard Coatsworth, a Tacoma News Tribune photographer, was driving with the dog over the bridge when it started to vibrate violently.
Coatsworth was forced to flee his car, leaving Tubby behind. Professor Farquharson and a news photographer attempted to rescue Tubby, but the dog was too terrified to leave the car and bit one of the rescuers.
Tubby died when the bridge fell, and neither his body nor the car were ever recovered.
PS: Today, wind tunnel vibration testing of bridge designs is mandatory!
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