The Tacoma Narrows

Drive west out of the Seattle area towards the Olympic Peninsula, and you will cross what must be one of the loveliest and most precariously perched bridges in the Pacific Northwest. Standing 540 feet high and almost a mile long, the twin Tacoma Narrows suspension spans seem imposing, or even overbuilt, but if you ask a local, they’ll tell you they like it that way. That’s because before the Narrows, there was Galloping Gertie, what was hailed as the ‘most modern’ bridge of its day when construction was completed in July of 1940. By November, Gertie had collapsed, having succumbed to an aeroelastic flutter caused by a 42 mile an hour wind. There was no loss of life in the incident, save for a cocker spaniel named Tubby who belonged to one of the engineers.
Now, the Tacoma Narrows stand as both a statement of perseverance and will and a cautionary tale. It’s important to remember that our control of nature is tenuous at best, and susceptible to failures of experience and imagination. As climate changes we necessarily must evaluate the dexterity and longevity of infrastructure, and try to imagine more.

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