HARRISBURG (July 22, 2003) — A
powerful storm passing through Northwestern Pennsylvania yesterday
afternoon caused considerable damage to Kinzua Bridge State Park in
McKean County, including the partial collapse of the historic Kinzua
The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and its contractor
were in the midst of a multi-million dollar emergency repair project to
restore the 2,053-foot-long structure. The agency last summer had closed
the bridge, which annually draws thousands of pedestrian and excursion
train travelers, after regular inspections showed severe rusting and
deterioration within its steel understructure.
“We are very fortunate that no one sustained serious injuries, but we
are saddened about the extensive damage to this engineering landmark,”
said State Park Director Roger Fickes.
An unusual wind event struck the area around 3:15 p.m. Monday, crumbling
11 of the 20 towers to the bridge, snapping hundreds of trees, and
collapsing a park maintenance shed. A park worker in the shed at the
time of its collapse is being treated for minor injuries. No workers
were on or around the bridge at the time of collapse.
Powerful winds approached the bridge from the east, opposite of normal
wind patterns. Several tornadoes were sighted in the region yesterday.
Six piers on the side of the bridge with the observation deck are left
standing, as well as three on the other side of the bridge. The middle
of the bridge, with the largest support towers, toppled from the winds.
DCNR and it emergency contractor, W.M. Brode Co. of Newcomerstown, Ohio,
began emergency repair work in February. Two full-time crews—at times
numbering more than 30 workers—were assigned to the bridge work, which
entailed repairs to the bottom struts of the towers, the tower legs and
their lacings, and replacement of gusset brackets.
The Kinzua Bridge was completed in 1882. At the time, it was the highest
railroad bridge in the world at 301 feet from the valley floor. The
structure was rebuilt in 1900 to handle heavier trains; it went unused
from 1959 to 1987.
The state park around the bridge officially opened in 1970. In 1977, the
Kinzua Viaduct received national recognition when it was placed on the
National Register of Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks.
NEWS RELEASE -
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Commonwealth News Bureau, Room 308, Main Capitol, Harrisburg, PA 17120
CONTACT: Gretchen Leslie, DCNR Press Secretary, (717) 772-9101