Port Angeles Evening News from Port Angeles, Washington on May 24, 1956 · Page 7
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Port Angeles Evening News from Port Angeles, Washington · Page 7

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Port Angeles, Washington
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Thursday, May 24, 1956
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Page 7
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TALE OF TACOMA NARROWS BRIDGE COLLAPSE ONE OF STATE'S 'BIG STORIES' fill W' Editor's note: Over the years Washington State has been the scene of many exciting events, the details of which have been dimmed by time* The Associated Press plans to re-tell these "big stories" in a series starting with this account 'of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse. It is written by Leonard CoatsWorth of The Tacoma News Tribune, who was on the bridge when it started its fatal shakes. By LEONARD~COATSWORTH TACOMA (fl — Galloping Oertle was just a young girl when she met her untimely end. Just four months old, to be exact, but a precocious four months at that. For Oertle, the suspension bridge that spanned The Narrows at Tacoma for a third of the year 1940, had attracted to herself world wide attention. Going back a bit, It had been a dream of many years that some day a great bridge would tie Tacoma to the Olympic Peninsula. Mid-summer of 1940 had seen the culmination of two years of con- structlon effort. The steel and concrete bridge was dedicated July 4, 1940, and speakers sonorously proclaimed It would stand for all time as a symbol of man's conquest of nature. Pour months later, on the morn- Ing of Nov. 7, the Narrows bridge plunged ingloriously Into The Narrows. By noon that day all that remained were the gaunt towers, still supporting the cables, and the warped roadways between the towers and the two shores. fcemnants of suspender cables dangled disconsolately In the brisk wind, which was far short of storm velocity. PREDICTED The collapse 'was catastrophic but there had been many engineers as well as laymen who had predicted a short life for the bridge. Galloping Gertie did not win that title without deserving It. Gertie really galloped. Motorists on the 2,800-foot center span sometimes felt as though they were traveling via roller coaster, and often had the dis- concertirig experience of seeing an approaching car disappear com' pletely as it went into the trough of a roadway wave. This is what was happening: Extending downward from each side of the roadway was a solid Brazil Deputies To Consider New Bill for Divorce RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil Wl — A bill to be Introduced in the Chamber of Deputies would allow divorce after five years of legal separation. Divorce never has been legal in Brazil. Deputy Sergio Magalhaes of Brazil's Labor Party says his bill will change the civil code so as to circumvent the constitutional clause saying "marriage is indissoluble." At present a couple can obtain a legal separation, but neither can marry again. The separated wife no longer can use her husband's name and is not entitled to inheritance or any other wifely benefits. Since remarriage is impossible, these separated persons often take on a companion who in fact is a spouse. This companion, under the law, is entitled to all the benefits of a married person but not the title. A child is legitimate if the father recognizes the offspring as his own. A legion of such cases includes diplomats, doctors, engineers, journalists... and congressm e n. There are 2,000 to 3,000 new "de- squitados" a year. Magalhaes said the law must "protect and regulate these de facto" second unions. The Roman ^Catholic Church opposes any ; change in the law. CONTINUE MEjBTINGS GENEVA, Switzerland Iff) — Ambassadors U; 'AleXis Johnson of the United States and Wang Ping- nan of Communist China met for 2 hours and 27 minutes Thursday in continuation of their long negotiations on'.the imprisonment of 13 American civilians in Communist China. The meeting was the 48th between the two envoys. The next meeting will be held May 31. NO HARM WINTERBOURNE KINQSTON, England UP) — Mrs. Sophia Wellstead tossed off .her- usual sleeping potion of a t»n glass of gin and port wine Wednesday night after celebrating hqr 106th 'birthday. "It has never done me any harm," she told a reporter, "and it is too late now to start wondering if it might." plate girder. These girders acted as sails, seemingly catching all the wind that blew up and down The Narrows., As the wind would push against a girder the tops of the towers would be pulled together enough to let the main cables drop. The roadway would sag and, most strangely, the motion would take the form of repeated undulations, sweeping from tower to tower. Knglneers In charge sought to be reassuring, but It was obvious they were worried. They Were, in fact, dealing with the longest, and lightest suspension bridge, in relation to width, that had ever been attempted up to that time. Somewhere in their planning the factor of aerodynamics had been slighted, although it was disclosed later that a suspension bridge In Scotland fell under almost identical circumstances. People came from far and near to see Oertle perform, but she was coy and perverse. Sometimes even on windy days she remained M solid and stable as Tacoma's Pacific Avenue. On other days, with but a light breeze blowing, the ominous undulation would begin. Engineers sought a way to halt Gertie's gyrations, and the means that was hit upon proved in the end, by an ironic twist of fate, the bridge's undoing. Long stay cables were attached to the main cables with huge shackles and these cables, fastened fit strategic points, were supposed to dampen the excessive motion of the suspended section. STAGE 8ET The stage was now set for the final act. Nov. 7, 1040 dawned overcast and windy, and the inefficiency of the stay cables, Which met their first major test that day, Was soon apparent. The wind continued to freshen and by 10 a.m. was blow- Ing an estimated 42 miles per hour. Oertie was frisky as a colt. The late Jlrtt Bashford, for many years a TacOrtw newspaper photographer, sensed trouble and sta- tioned'himself with his Graflex at the Tacoma end of the bridge. By 10:30 the modulations of the center span were so severe that the toll gate attendants decided to let no more cars cross. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how one looks at it, that decision was reached just after this writer's car was given the green light to. cross. For about two-thirds the distance from main tower to bridge center, where the giant main cables dipped down to the roadway, the trip,was marked only by the excessive Undulation of the roadway. But a little way short of mid- center chaos suddenly took com: plete charge. Without any warn, ing the roadway, • which had been on n reasonably level plane despite the undulations, suddenly fell away 48 degrees to the left. The car followed suit and plunged against the left curb. Just as 1 quickly the roadway fell away with equal sharpness to the right, the car with It. It was impossible to drive forward, so 1 locked the brakes and decided to abandon ship, All efforts to induce a frightened dog to leave the car were unavailing. Once 1 stepped out on the roadway I was thrown on my face and slid against the curb. By this time suspender cables were snapping with pistol-like reports and the cement around me was begin- Ing to crack. CRAWLED TO SHORE I made for shore, forced to crawl much of the way to the tower and holding onto the high curb to keep from being plunged into the water 200 feet below. At Intervals I could rise and run a few steps between the sideways plunges of the span. I made It off with n good margin of safety before the center span roadway, a little after 11 o'clock, tore Itself loose from the cables and plunged awesomely into the wind-whipped waves below. Before that final plunge a strange thing happened. The bridge lost Its mad motion and quieted to a point where others were able to go out to my car, but they were also unable to get the dog out. Mil Went down with the car and bridge wreckage. Newls tribune reporters and photographers whom I had summoned by telephone immediately after 1 got off the bridge, were on hand to record the final act in the tragedy. And Jim Bashford, who had waited so patiently, got one of the finest pictures of all. .The post-mortems were many, for the collapse of the span was generally taken as a blow to the entire engineering profession. Most significant, it waft found that one of the great shackles tying stay cables to a main cable had slipped, throwing the.se main cables out of step In their rise and fall, and thus accounting for twisting that eventually destroyed the bridge. REPLACED Galloping Gertie Is Just a memory in Tacoma now. She has long since been replaced by a bridge RS long but almost twice as wide. And the main girders of this new bridge are lattice-like affairs that let the wind sweep through. Even the roadway is slotted for free passage of the breezes. When some speakers at the dedication of the present bridge predicted it would stand forever, a lot of folks believed them. And with years of testing Instead of the briaf span of Gertie's life^ there is good reason to think they may be right. FRENCHMEN HONORED-Two famous Frenchmen being honored In a new series of commemorative stamps are Samuel de Champlaln, navigator, explorer and soldier, and Maurice Ravel, famed composer. Above are artists' sketches of the stamps, being Issued from Paris. CHURCH IN THE WILL TAFTVILLE, Conn. (/PI — Many employes of a textile mill go to the plant on Sunday—to attend church. Management made one floor of the mill available to Sacred Heart (Roman Catholic) parish for masses after the church burned down. COAXIAL THEFT PINEVILLE, Ky I/D — Somebody stole the 1,500-foot, rnnxlal cable that relays television from a mountain top to residents of this town. About one-fifth of high school systems driver education. U.S. public provide for 9M* £«8i ft- Port Angelas, Wn., tfrf DECISIVE test mm Jonn O. Watte ,. when Cheater fl. fir could not have Been an hour when ftrrtawo -^. S! -- iSt ing. "Why my car eotnU'EJfl over 80, your honor," Brttfltl.ftOlm plained. . .• , ,., The judge n»d?i»pollewnwf Bragiel's car <riit>«ta an W for a test run. • The oa _. phoned back thai; the ««f . miles an hout ^easily ttM have gone faster. Sragiel i to jail for five days and not to drrve fof.A year. INSURANCE DBS MOtNffS Mtl — — ,-, and Insurance adjusting JUSI. . mix. . This advice was given 280. at crs from 16 states durln* • * -j.-. discussion at the MldW««(emJflll Adjusters Assrt. cftnventlofli TH8 panelists advised adjusters Hot to discus loss settlement* over ?**• taurant tables. * . of all kinds -^'Wlth «r' pedigree. Patricia's Pet Shgp 512 E. 1st n.t NEW RED HEAD — Forty* ftVeiyear-old John Gollan, national organizer of the 3ritisb Communist party, s n c c e e d s Harry Pollitt, 65, as the party « general secretary, Pollitt, re» portedly resigning because of ill health, will tate over duties M Use Your WE ARE OPEN EVERY FRIDAY NIGHT UNTIL 9:00 O'CLOCK Open A Charge Account At Peoples; Today! FREE 1 HOUR PARKING IN REAR OF PEOPLES STORE FOR YOUR SHOPPING PLEASURE SALE! Siz« Chart Small Avtraf* TaN I •Vi » Wong t'/« 10 10, lO'/j ll.ll'/i tlMMl H ever V»" In k«l«M, «f , H Mat art fell; HIM »ik. , avtraf*.) (licwt If av*r S r t" In htlqht, or If IMS «r» fvlltr than average; fhm fad* tall.) LADY CROMWELL® STAMPED CASES 1.00 Reg. 1.29 pr. 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