Although Washington State is generally known for its engineering prowess, not all projects have gone well. What would you say are the top three engineering disasters in our state's history?
I expect that Galloping Gertie comes first to mind for most of us.
Image courtesy University of Washington Libraries, 290.51, circa 1940
How many fatalities resulted from the bridge collapse? Fortunately, no humans lost their lives. However, one three legged dog named Tubby, who refused to leave the car that he was, perished. The good news, failure of the Narrows Bridge ushered in a whole new paradigm of thought - wind makes a difference and must be considered in design of bridges and building structures.
What other engineering disasters come to mind? Less known and earlier in the 20th century was the flooding caused by failure of the Cedar River Dam just above Rattlesnake Lake near North Bend.
Photo courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives, #5897, circa 1911
This is what happens when water infiltrated down and under containment, eventually blowing out the outlet dam and flooding the downstream town of Cedar Falls and Rattlesnake Lake.
Photo courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives, #709, circa 1911
Photo courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives, #7551, circa 1911
Fortunately, as best I can determine, there were no fatalities and dam(n) designers learned from their previous mistakes. Understanding underlying soils is paramount.
Unfortunately, these lessons were apparently not learned well enough resulting in the Oso mudslide of 2015 in which 43 people lost their lives and many who survived lost their homes.
Photo courtesy Seattle Times, March 21, 2014, Markus Yam photographer, and National Geographic article by Brian Clark Howard, March 24, 2014
One can only hope, that with the horrible loss of lives resulting from this incident, that lessons have been learned and corrections to past practice are now in place to prevent future such catastrophes. The price paid has been too high not to have prevented this from happening again.