Tacoma Narrows Bridge Disaster
In the annals of civil engineering, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge Disaster, or “Galloping Gertie,” stands out as both a remarkable and sad occurrence. On November 7, 1940, only four months after its official opening, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington state fell owing to aerodynamic forces.
Aeroelastic flutter, in which the structure of the bridge resonates with the wind, creating severe and uncontrollable vibrations, led to the collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. The undulating motion of the bridge led to it being called “Galloping Gertie” by the locals.
The incident was filmed, and the resulting footage has become an influential and widely-viewed document of engineering failure. As a major setback for civil engineering, the bridge’s collapse prompted widespread changes to how suspension bridges are built around the world.
A fascinating and educational look at this engineering marvel turned tragedy can be found in a book about the Tacoma Narrows Bridge Disaster. It examines the mistakes and oversights in the bridge’s design that ultimately led to its collapse, as well as the ensuing inquiries and lessons learned by engineers.
The Tacoma Narrows Bridge Disaster is a powerful example of why applying stringent engineering standards, safety measures, and testing procedures to all major infrastructure projects is crucial. It makes people think about how to be both creative and careful in their engineering projects.