Galloping Gertie and Father Hurricane

July 26, 2018

Each month has an interesting weather item. On July 23, 1893, Father Benito Vines died in Havana, Cuba and is regarded as the preeminent hurricane scholar of the 19th century. As director of the observatory at Belen College in Havana in 1870, he made meticulous observations of weather conditions, especially during tropical disturbances. His daily observations became a climatological catalog for future forecasts. His notations included excerpts expressing brick-red sunsets, pounding surf and how cumulus clouds would evaporate at the approach of a hurricane. His keen sense of observation allowed him to understand the dynamics of tropical cyclones and by 1875, he was able to issue accurate hurricane warnings. “Father Hurricane” invented a device used by mariners to avoid hurricanes and typhoons called the Antilles Cyclonoscope. A few years ago, about 60,000 people walked and ran across the newly opened Tacoma Narrows Bridge.  It’s a mile-long span that replaced the original Tacoma Narrows bridge that was dubbed “Galloping Gertie” and at that time was recognized as the third longest suspension bridge when it opened on July 1, 1940.  On November 7, 1940, 35 mile-per-hour winds caused the bridge to buck and vibrate so excessively that the entire structure collapsed into Puget Sound. The event was placed into the engineering Hall of Shame and led to a field of study called wind engineering.  Today, meteorologists, along with structural and civil engineers work together when building bridges and other wind compromising structures. 

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