Engineers Scaling Washington Monument Face Stormy Weather

September 29, 2011; 2:20 PM
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Dave Megerle, a member of Wiss, Janney, Elstner, Associates (WJE) "Difficult Access Team," attaches ropes to the top of the Washington Monument, on the National Mall, in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011, from which four people will rappel down the sides to survey the extent of damage sustained to the monument from the Aug. 23 earthquake. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The National Park Service said Monday that the Aug. 23 5.8-magnitude quake damaged the Washington Monument more seriously than originally reported.

The earthquake left cracks wider than an inch in the monument. Water from rainstorms and Hurricane Irene damaged the monument even more, the NPS said.

"It's imperative that they seal out future water before prolonged freezing temperatures hit," said Expert Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski. "When water freezes, it expands. So if water remains in any cracks and freezes, that expansion could cause more damage."

From Aug. 23 to Sept. 27, Washington, D.C., has picked up more than a foot of rain.

On Tuesday, a team of engineers had planned to start rappelling down the four sides of 127-year-old monument to check the structure block by block for damage. The inspection will take five days.

However, reports that bad weather halted Tuesday's inspection.

Weather could remain problematic for the inspection with additional rounds of showers and thunderstorms moving through into Thursday. There is the potential for downpours to unleash a quick inch of rain during that time, along with severe thunderstorms this afternoon.

"We know it's going to be a curiosity," Captain Kathleen Harasek, Commander of the Central District for the United States Park Police said to Reuters. "We tend to try and keep people off the outside of the monument, so it's kind of contrary to what we normally try and do."


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