Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Minneapolis bridge collapse

As Power Line put it:
This is the kind of disaster that just doesn't happen in the United States.
It does happen but not to this magnitude. Many here in Tennessee remember the horrible collapse of the US Highway 51 over the Hatchie River in 1989. Most of the time these things happen due to barge hits or water damage (scouring), which occurred at the Hatchie bridge.

But it's silly to speculate this early, which is why it's odd that Homeland Security speculated very early that it wasn't terrorism--even before their FBI go-team arrived. Meanwhile the media bobbleheads were shaking the trees for causes and coming up with much stupider speculation, like jackhammer vibrations, weather, and road resurfacing on the decks. One even featured an email from a viewer who said a passenger train was crushed underneath. For her information, those are called covered hopper cars (only illegals and hobos ride those). A derailment doesn't appear likely judging by the pictures. Really, if we're going to speculate the time of day was perfect for terrorism but also perfect for structural failure due to the stop and go traffic weighing it down.

The most compelling eyewitness yet was a college professor interviewed on Fox who reported hearing a "pounding" sound followed by a crashing sound and turned and saw the collapsing bridge. What the hell was that pounding sound? Surely it was only a coincidence we got this candygram today but we've certainly wondered about the 100 year old bridges here in the lower Mississippi valley, since losing a few key spans could cripple the economy.

God be with the families and surviving victims tonight, many of whom were rescued by good Samaritans and heroes. These things bring out the best in many folks. And the worst:
It's political also because a trillion dollars have gone to killing hundreds of thousands in Iraq while at the same time nothing has been spent on repairing our deteriorating infrastructure at home. I do pray for the people of Minnesota and especially those who have been injured or possibly have died in this terrible accident, but one way or another, this has happened because of politics.
Proof there can be no believable terrorist attacks until a Democrat president is in office.

MORE 8/1/07

Another witness just said she heard a loud sound then saw the collapse with a corresponding cloud of dust or smoke. Speculating away like a fool, if a truss or main piece of steel failed it sure might make a loud sound and the concrete failure would cause some smoke. It seems risky for a terrorist group to have rigged dynamite with all the construction workers around. Wonder if there's any video?

MORE 8/2/07

Not much to add other than speculation but since everybody's already speculating it was metal fatigue I'll just wander off into the theoretical weeds for a moment.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that if AQ could disable several key bridges over the Mississippi in a short period of time they could do a major number on our economy, tying us up in repairs and complaints for years and costing us billions. Some on the left are already trying to connect the billions spent on Iraq with the billions not spend on infrastructure here, blaming Bush. Will any of the candidates pick up that baton and run with it during the campaign if the cause is found to be structural, advocating withdrawal from fighting and tax increases? Sounds like an all around big win for the bad guys.

But could they have pulled it off? Everyone has seen the collapse video, which was filmed from the south bank and west of the bridge. It clearly indicates the southern end of the span began to fall first, taking the north pier with it seconds later.

Now, notice this photo on Texas Rainmaker's site. It is looking north from the east side of the span. Notice the steel truss is lying on tubular concrete supports on both sides, but notice they are fairly low to the ground in the foreground (south side), which was the same side the video was taken from. It appears there might be public access to the south pier supports.

It would be interesting to know whether strategically placed small explosive charges would result in such a failure especially if the bridge already had some problems? Remember the World War II movies where our guys would sneak down to the bridge and crawl around on the girders placing plastic explosives?

Pretty far out and not something Chertoff would admit anyway but remember, KSM was an engineer. Just sayin'. Actually, terrorism might be a more comforting explanation that an outright blind failure, in a weird sort of way.

MORE 8/2/07

While the above may represent outrageous fantasy to most it was offered in light of the fact everyone already seems to know the probable cause before the official probable cause has been determined. Do we know it wasn't an accident, for example?

However, some have all they need. Air America's Rachel Maddow just spewed out the most vile commentary I've heard in awhile, blaming Bush, the Republican Minnesota governor, and even Ronald Reagan for the collapse, lumping it with the New York steam pipe explosion and Katrina as overwhelming evidence of the destruction caused by cutting taxes. She leaned heavily on this column by Star Tribune writer Nick Coleman without telling her listeners that Mr. Coleman made a point of saying the issue was non-partisan.

Yes, we do need a debate on how best to fund repairs to our national infrastructure but when Reagan said, "Government IS the problem" he wasn't advocating NO government, he was advocating more efficient government, a concept that for the left is very hard to grasp. They are willfully blind to the miserable return on taxpayer investment inherent in bureaucracies due to their pursuit of controlling those bureaucracies, despite clear evidence such as failing schools or "bridges to nowhere". Apparently nothing short of autocratic liberal control will suffice and no issue is too sensitive to politicize to that end.


Here's another eyewitness report, from a woman who was jogging near the bridge (had just passed underneath it):
Survivor Lori Patterson also witnessed the Interstate 35W bridge collapse -- she was jogging under it moments before it crumbled. Patterson said she heard a loud explosion and turned around, thinking it was construction or dynamite testing.
From looking at the various maps it would appear the jogging path is on the south side, nearest the side suspected of failing. Eyewitnesses on the north side did not report hearing any loud sounds prior to collapse. So, what was the sound?

Hard to say, although speculation would still leave us with catastrophic failure since a load bearing point on such a heavy structure suddenly giving way would probably make a pretty loud bang. Of course, that sound could have been from something else, such as an accident or things more nefarious. Perhaps we should withhold our national fear of eminent bridge collapse until the investigation is further along.

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