The very first Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapsed on November 7, 1940. Spanning over the Tacoma Narrows strait of Puget Sound, this now-pair of bridges link Tacoma and the Kitsap Peninsula.
Construction for the original structure first began in 1938, and it officially opened to traffic in the summer of 1940. But even from when the deck was first built, it was easy to see how much the bridge would move in the wind – which is how it got the nickname “Galloping Gertie”.
They did several things to try and fix it from moving so much, but everything seemed to be ineffective. On the morning of November 7 - only four months after being opened - the bridge finally collapsed due to harsh wind conditions, and a phenomenon known as "aeroelastic flutter."
The last person to drive on the bridge was Leonard Coatsworth, a Tacoma News Tribune editor. He described the event in detail:
"Around me I could hear concrete cracking. I started back to the car to get the dog, but was thrown before I could reach it. The car itself began to slide from side to side on the roadway. I decided the bridge was breaking up and my only hope was to get back to shore. "On hands and knees most of the time, I crawled 500 yards or more to the towers...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."
Fortunately, no human lives were lost because of the collapse. The only fatality was Tubby, a black cocker spaniel, who fell into the inlet with Coatsworth's car.
In the video below, you can see Coatsworth's colleague, Farquharson, try to go back and rescue Tubby, but the dog was too terrified to leave the car and ended up biting him. Ironically, Coatsworth had been driving the dog back to his daughter who owned it. It was assumed that Tubby died, but neither the dog or car were ever actually found. Coatsworth received $450 (which would be $7,600 in modern time, with inflation) for his car - and about $364 (or $6,200 now) to reimburse everything that was in his car - including Tubby.
There were delays in replacing the bridge, due to engineering problems and the timing of World War II. Finally, 10 years after the collapse, a new bridge opened in the same place with the original tower pedestals and cable anchorages. The 1950 bridge still remains today for the westbound lanes.
By the 1990s, the population and traffic on the Kitsap Peninsula had grown dramatically, and by 1998 Washington voters approved for a parallel bridge to be constructed. It was finally completed recently in 2007, and now carries eastbound traffic.
Luckily, the collapse had been originally filmed by Barney Elliott, the owner of a local camera shop, and can still be seen online today, thanks to Youtube user
Check out this incredible "Gallopin' Gertie" footage as the bridge whipped back and forth before finally collapsing into the water below:
Could you imagine how crazy this was? Do you remember when this bridge collapsed?