Washington Monument Closes to Repair Earthquake-Induced Crack

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Mandel Ngan / AFP / Getty Images

Despite what the jeers of jaded Californians might suggest, toppled lawn chairs weren’t actually the worst of the damage from Tuesday’s earthquake that rattled the East Coast.  The Washington Monument developed a crack near its peak from the magnitude-5.8 quake, prompting officials to close the statue indefinitely as they examine the extent of the damage.

A helicopter crew discovered the crack during a secondary inspection of the monument on Tuesday, which runs at an angle and measures about four inches in length.  Structural engineers are continuing to inspect the damage the day after it was reported, and authorities erected a temporary 150-foot perimeter fence around the monument’s base following the reports.

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“An outside engineering team will take whatever amount of time they need,” National Parks Service spokesperson Bill Line said. “They are going to do a structural analysis of the crack.”

Despite the damage to the 127-year-old monument, a preliminary report from the NPS said it remains structurally sound. The organization also rejected a rumor, spread on Twitter, that the structure had tilted because of the earthquake.

Made of 91,000 tons of Maryland marble, the Washington Monument it is the world’s tallest stone obelisk, towering at 555 feet high. While the grounds of the monument have been reopened since Tuesday’s earthquake, access to the building itself remains suspended.

The obelisk wasn’t the only landmark harmed in the Virginia quake that sent shock waves towards the nation’s capital. The National Cathedral, the site of state funerals and presidential memorial services, lost three out of four of its fleur-de-lis corner spires which fell from the central tower onto its roof.

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