Team ends rappelling check of Washington Monument

AP News
Posted: Oct 05, 2011 1:58 PM
Team ends rappelling check of Washington Monument

Engineers who have been rappelling down the Washington Monument completed their inspection Wednesday of its exterior damage from an earthquake.

The National Park Service said the team finished its survey in the span of a week. Engineers have been removing stone and mortar shaken loose by the 5.8-magnitude earthquake on Aug. 23. The stone recovered ranged from the size of a golf ball to a dictionary, and some of the larger pieces may be reattached to the monument during repairs, the park service said Wednesday.

Park service officials said the engineering firm Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates will next draft a report that will help determine how the monument should be repaired.

"Once the report has been received, the (park service) will determine how the permanent repairs will be made," the park service said in a written statement Wednesday. "There is currently no timeline for completing the work or reopening the monument."

Officials have said it's unclear whether the work will require a scaffolding to be built around the monument, which was done during a restoration project from 1999 to 2001.

The earthquake caused numerous cracks to form in the obelisk, which was the tallest man-made structure in the world when it was completed in 1884. Engineers have said it remains structurally sound.

"This brings us one step closer to making this wonderful monument open to the public once again," National Mall Superintendent Bob Vogel said in an emailed statement.

While engineers draft the report, the engineering firm will perform interim weatherization repairs to "provide some protection" until more permanent repairs are made, the park service said.

The inspection began a week ago, but weather caused some delays and complications. On Friday, one engineer was blown about 30 feet off the monument's face by a gust of wind. He was not injured.