The original, 5,939-foot-long Tacoma Narrows Bridge, popularly known as "Galloping Gertie," opened to traffic on July 1, 1940 after two years of construction, linking Tacoma and Gig Harbor. The bridge was the third-longest suspension bridge in the United States at the time, with a length of 5939 feet including approaches. Its two supporting towers were 425 feet high. The towers were 2800 feet apart.
It collapsed just four months later during a 42-mile-per-hour windstorm on Nov. 7, 1940. The only casualty was a dog trapped in an automobile that went down with the bridge.
The bridge earned the nickname "Galloping Gertie" from its rolling, undulating behavior. Motorists crossing the 2,800-foot center span sometimes felt as though they were traveling on a giant roller coaster, watching the cars ahead disappear completely for a few moments as if they had been dropped into the trough of a large wave.
The original bridge was a suspended plate girder type that caught the wind, rather than allowing it to pass through. As the wind's intensity increased, so did Gertie's rolling, corkscrewing motion -- until it finally tore the bridge apart.
For the next 10 years, Tacoma and Gig Harbor/the Olympic Peninsula were once again unconnected by bridge. Then after 29 months of construction, a new, much safer Tacoma Narrows Bridge opened on Oct. 14, 1950. The new bridge spans 5,979 feet -- 40 feet longer than "Galloping Gertie" -- and is part of Hwy. 16.
The sunken remains of "Galloping Gertie" were placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992 to protect her from salvagers. The debris is home these days to a wide variety of sea life, ranging from giant octopi and wolf eels to sea bass and sharks.