The storm that pummeled the tristate area on Monday brought wind gusts up to 50 mph across New York City and tornado watches in parts of New Jersey. Out of an abundance of caution, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority decided to close both the upper and lower levels of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, which connects Staten Island and Brooklyn, for several hours during the late morning and early afternoon.
That might read like a somewhat excessive measure, until you see how the bridge was actually responding to the inclement conditions.
This video, posted to Twitter by @NYCFireWire, shows the Verrazzano free of cars, rising and falling in the storm. And while the visual is certainly disconcerting enough on its own, it’s made even more unnerving by the sound, which apparently isn’t the work of a dark ambient techno group but rather is the noise generated by 1.2 million tons of steel swaying in the breeze.
Now, it’s important to stress that the Verrazzano is a suspension bridge, and suspension bridges are designed to flex. If you’ve been stuck in stalled traffic on such a bridge, you’ve surely felt the surface vibrate beneath you. To see this phenomenon in action though, even in a video, is still eye-opening. In fact, it sent me down an internet rabbit hole last night to learn as much as I could about the Tacoma Narrows Bridge that collapsed four months after opening in 1940. They called it Galloping Gertie! But I digress.
The MTA reopened the lower level of the Verrazzano at about 3 p.m., once the wind had subsided a bit, and it was back to business as usual. On the upside, at least this bridge doesn’t howl incessantly like the Golden Gate. I may not be a civil engineer, but I constructed a few balsa wood models in the fifth grade, and I can tell you with a certain degree of expertise that bridges are neat and also sometimes very weird.