Earthquake Damage to Washington Monument?

They closed the Lincoln Memorial.   Photo by Jotman.  Aug 23/11

Standing 169 meters, the Washington Monument is the tallest stone structure in the world.  The scariest place in the world on Tuesday Aug 23 at 1:51pm was the undoubtedly the observation deck at the top of the shaking obelisk.

Two hours after the earthquake struck I spoke with two National Park rangers about how the monument weathered the earthquake.  One ranger told small pieces of stone had fallen off the monument during the quake. Another ranger claimed "stones" had fallen off the ceiling of the lookout room at the very top of the monument, hitting several tourists.

I watched a helicopter conduct an inspection of the monument.

There are reports that the earthquake caused some new cracks at the very top.

A helicopter (right) inspected the Washington Monument in the
 hours after the earthquake.  Photo by Jotman, Aug. 23/11

Washington D.C. monuments closed in the aftermath of the earthquake Tuesday included the Lincoln Memorial and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.  Buildings on Capitol Hill were evacuated.

Since my visit to the National Mall in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, CNN has reported:
A helicopter inspected the Washington Monument, and it was found to be structurally sound, the National Park Service said. 
But a secondary inspection revealed cracking in the stones at the top of the monument. Structural engineers on Wednesday will determine the best way to repair the monument before it is reopened, the agency said. The grounds have been reopened except for an area about 100 feet outside the plaza.

U.S. Park Police spokesman David Schlosser said to his eye, the monument was "clearly not leaning. It's standing tall and proud."
The  LA Times described "conflicting reports" about the condition of the monument:
There were conflicting reports late Tuesday about whether the Washington Monument -- one of the most instantly recognizable symbols of the nation's capital -- suffered any damage. The Associated Press reported that a crack was found near the top of the monument, which is both the world's tallest stone structure and the world's tallest obelisk, standing just over 555 feet tall.

But the National Park Service posted a different message on its website that made no mention of such damage: "The NPS has completed a preliminary inspection of the Washington Monument and has found it to be structurally sound. The Washington Monument grounds are being reopened except for the plaza and the Monument itself. The NPS will continue to inspect the interior of the Monument before any decisions are made about reopening it to the public."

The National Park Service temporarily closed the Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial and the Old Post Office Tower as a precaution following the earthquake, and those monuments could reopen to the public as early as Wednesday pending a safety clearance.

For now, though, "the Washington Monument, because of its structural complexities, will remain closed until further notice," the NPS website said.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, the World War II Memorial, Vietnam Memorial and the Korean War Memorial remain open, the NPS said.
Not the "The Leaning Tower of Washington."  Photo by Jotman, Aug. 23/11


  1. Wow!

    How did you get down there so fast?

    I was so jolted I had to spend the rest of the day recovering in my apartment - where my water glasses on my Buddhist shrine shelf clicked against each other, and the building opposite waved sideways.

    Kyi May Kaung

  2. Kyi May Kaung,

    Your comment reminds me of the big earthquake that struck Tachilek and the Thai border area of Burma in late March. Some of my first posts on this blog concerned a trip in to Shan State. I hope the folks there are doing OK.

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