Interstate 35W (Death in America, cont.)

Caroline Yankelevich was heading south Wednesday on Interstate Hwy. 35W, sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the bridge over the Mississippi River.

Nearby, Kristin West, Louis Rogers and Kevin Kopelki were listening to the radios in their cars as traffic jammed the bridge shortly after 6 p.m.

That’s when Yankelevich felt something strange.

“I could kind of feel the bridge shake a little — it did a little shimmy,” she said. “Then the bridge started falling, cars were flying everywhere and I saw the water coming up.”

[Rogers, 28]’s SUV wound up about 5 feet from the break in the bridge.

“It made no sound whatsoever, it just collapsed,” Rogers said. “It was pretty much like a thud and not a loud thud — as if you dropped something on the floor two rooms beyond.

“The next thing I know, cars were dropping and there was smoke,” he said. “I had 5 feet — that’s it. There’s people gone.

Many people said they felt as if they were cast in a surreal earthquake film.

“It was like something out of a movie,” said Kopelki, 44, of Shoreview, as his car began to fill with river water.

Department of Homeland Security officials said they have ruled out terrorism as a cause.

Mary Logan, 70, St. Paul, was in the back seat of a car with visiting relatives and heading toward Roseville from the Mall of America. She felt the car shaking.

“We dropped three or four times,” she said. “I was afraid the car would not stop, but thankfully it did.”

“Someone yelled that we should get out,” said her granddaughter, Logan Winegar, 18.

Thirteen-year old Jeisy Aguiza was on a school bus operated by Waite House Neighborhood Center. She was with a group of about 60 youngsters who had been at Bunker Beach Water Park in Coon Rapids. They were going south on I-35W when the bridge collapsed.

The bus “just fell,” Aguiza said. “We were all scared. I opened my eyes and saw rocks. We were all screaming.”

Matt Lundquist, president of Top Notch Builders, was coming home from meeting a client and “everything in front of me was gone,” he said. “The first jolt startled me, and I knew it wasn’t right.”

Reports issued by the Minnesota Department of Transportation […] “has not experienced fatigue cracking, but it has many poor fatigue details on the main truss and floor truss system.”

“should not have any problems with fatigue cracking in the foreseeable future.”

“It looked like complete total structural failure,” said Munro, 40, of Minneapolis. “There was twisted metal everywhere.”

[… undergoing “cosmetic” repairs, including resurfacing and guardrail and lighting replacement

“It’s dark, it’s not safe with the currents in the water and the concrete and rebar,” Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek told the Associated Press at 1 a.m. Thursday.

Jay Danz, 45, of St. Paul told the Star Tribune that he was driving to the Minnesota Twins baseball game on a parkway beneath the structure when he heard the bridge “creaking and making all sorts of noise it shouldn’t make.”

“And then the bridge just started to fall apart,” he said.

Announcers told the crowd at the nearby Twins game of the collapse shortly after 7 p.m. local time, and halted on-field activities for a moment of prayer. Officials elected to continue the game, in part to avoid tens of thousands of fans from pouring into highways approaching the chaotic scene.

The Twins postponed their Wednesday afternoon game against the Kansas City Royals. They also postponed a groundbreaking ceremony that was scheduled for a planned new stadium on the other end of downtown Minneapolis.

“Things can happen with temperature, and with construction, or a lot of other confounding factors,” Catherine E. Wolfgram French, a civil engineering professor at the University of Minnesota, said.

This was a 40-year-old truss bridge, and French did say that some early truss bridges don’t have as many structural redundancies — backups to carry the loads — as is now considered desirable.

Another engineer, Michael Ramerth, a principal at MBJ Consulting Structural Engineers in Minneapolis, said in the search for answers “I would start at the foundations.”

On a typical weekday, more than 100,000 cars use the bridge.

Star Tribune, Minneapolis – St. Paul, Minnesota, more, more

Washington Post

Minnesota Dept. of Transportation, Traffic Cams (currently unavailable Cam 628 available)


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