Physics trivia

Tacoma Narrows Bridge

The Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapsed in 1940 after being hit by strong gusts of wind that caused the structure to sway.

New Tacoma Narrows Bridge, Washington – USA. The columns on the right, made of concrete, are from the bridge that collapsed in 1940.
Suspension bridges are cable-suspended structures that became very common in the 19th century. Perhaps the most famous suspension bridge is the Golden Gate in California, United States. In 1940, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge , located in Pierce County, Washington, USA, was completely destroyed after suffering the force of the wind, which caused the structure to sway in a frightening way.

On November 7, 1940, strong gusts of wind hit the bridge, which began to sway around 10:00 am and completely collapsed around 11:00 am. The following video shows the large oscillations suffered by the structure and the moment of total collapse.

Why did the bridge fall?

For a long time, the cause of the fall of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge was attributed exclusively to the phenomenon of resonance . The wind force would have increased the structure’s natural sway until a maximum value bearable by the material was reached. After this limit, the structure collapsed.

The only fatal victim of the Tacoma Narrows tragedy was a dog left inside an abandoned car in the center of the bridge. At the time of the collapse, the car fell into the river along with the structure that made up the bridge.

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