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Tacoma Bridge Disaster - Galloping Gertie

Posted by Diego Fonstad
Diego Fonstad
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on Saturday, 09 April 2011
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Teachable Moment: The Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse has long been used as an example of forced resonance in physics text books but recent analysis suggests aerodynamically induced "forced excitation" (see second reference) may have been the cause.  Either way, the video footage is dramatic and encourages great discussion!

The 1940 Tacoma Narrows Bridge was the first incarnation of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, a suspension bridge in the U.S. state of Washington that spanned the Tacoma Narrows strait of Puget Sound between Tacoma and the Kitsap Peninsula. It opened to traffic on July 1, 1940, and dramatically collapsed into Puget Sound on November 7 of the same year. At the time of its construction (and its destruction) the bridge was the third longest suspension bridge in the world in terms of main span length, behind the Golden Gate Bridge and the George Washington Bridge.

Construction on the bridge began in September 1938. From the time the deck was built, it began to move vertically in windy conditions, which led to construction workers giving the bridge the nickname Galloping Gertie. The motion was observed even when the bridge opened to the public. Several measures aimed at stopping the motion were ineffective, and the bridge's main span finally collapsed under 40-mile-per-hour (64 km/h) wind conditions the morning of November 7, 1940.

References: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tacoma_Narrows_Bridge_(1940)

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