Galloping Gertie

Posted: February 5, 2008 in Uncategorized
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Color video of the The Narrows Tacoma Bridge Disaster of 1940.
According to Wikipedia Preliminary construction plans had called for 25-foot-deep (7.6 m) girders to sit beneath the roadway and stiffen it. Moisseiff, a respected designer and consultant engineer of the famed Golden Gate Bridge, proposed shallower supports — girders 8 feet (2.4 m) deep. His approach meant a slimmer, more elegant design and reduced construction costs. Moisseiff’s design won out. On June 23, 1938, the PWA approved nearly $6 million for the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Another $1.6 million was to be collected from tolls to cover the total $8 million cost.

The decision to use the shallower girders proved to be the first bridge’s undoing. With the 8 foot (2.42 m) girders, the roadbed was insufficiently rigid and was easily moved about by winds. From the start, the bridge became notorious for its movement. A mild to moderate wind could cause alternate halves of the center span to visibly rise and fall several feet over 4 to 5 second intervals. This led to the bridge being referred to as “Galloping Gertie” by the local residents, due to the apparent “galloping” motion felt by the drivers on the roadway.

One of the people you see coming of the bridge here is Leonard Coatsworth whose car is the one you see left on the bridge. Again according to Wikipedia Leonard Coatsworth said “Just as I drove past the towers, the bridge began to sway violently from side to side. Before I realized it, the tilt became so violent that I lost control of the car… I jammed on the brakes and got out, only to be thrown onto my face against the curb… Around me I could hear concrete cracking… The car itself began to slide from side to side of the roadway.
On hands and knees most of the time, I crawled 500 yards [450 m] or more to the towers… My breath was coming in gasps; my knees were raw and bleeding, my hands bruised and swollen from gripping the concrete curb… Toward the last, I risked rising to my feet and running a few yards at a time… Safely back at the toll plaza, I saw the bridge in its final collapse and saw my car plunge into the Narrows.”

No human life was lost in the collapse of the bridge, though Coatsworth’s cocker spaniel named “Tubby” was lost along with his car in the collapse.



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