Tacoma, WA Tacoma Narrows Bridge Collapse, Nov 1940


Car Tossed About.

“Either just as I reached the towers, or just as I drove past them, the bridge began to sway violently from side to side. This was something new in my experience with the bridge.

“Before I knew it, the tilt from side to side became so violent I lost control of the car and thought for a moment it would leap the high curb. I jammed on the brakes and got out of the car, only to be thrown onto my face against the curb. I tried to stand and was thrown again. Around me I could hear concrete cracking.”

He began to crawl and once had to stop to catch his breath. His hands and knees were raw, bleeding and swollen from gripping the concrete curb. Toward the last he risked rising to his feet and running a few yards at a time.

“Those who stood on the shore and watched the bridge in its death agony still have no conception of the violence of the movement felt by one out beyond the towers.” he said.

A piece of the crumpling bridge hit the Coast Guard cutter Atlanta as if passed beneath the structure. Lieut. W. C. Hogan, officer in charge, said on its arrival in Olympia, Wash.

“We saw the roadbed above us twisting and turning and pieces of it had begun to tear and chip off.” he said, “A small piece hit the deck but did no damage.”

The Atlanta was the first vessel under the bridge as it was opened last summer, and with Thursday’s passage also was the last.

Leon S. Moisseiff, consulting engineer and designer of the bridge, and in New York: “I’m completely at a loss to explain the collapse.

“I have no explanation, none at all. I’m unable to understand how it could have happened.”

In designing the bridge, Moisseiff said he and associates had followed general scientific rules and that their combined results were checked thoroughly by state engineers in Washington.

Moisseiff said it had been learned before the bridge opened last July that there was a weaving motion, an undulation, to the bridge but that that motion had been anticipated and explained away by original tests.