Climbers Rappel Down Washington Monument to Survey Damage

Sep 27, 2011 1:27pm
ap washington monument dm 110927 main Climbers Rappel Down Washington Monument to Survey Damage

The Associated Press

A lone engineer anchored ropes to the pyramid atop the 555-foot Washington Monument this morning. From far away, he looked like a stationary dot atop the towering obelisk.

But Dave Megerle, from engineering firm Wiss Janney Elstner Associates, was busy working, securing four sets of ropes for climbers that will rappel down all four sides of the Washington Monument to look for damage inflicted by last month’s 5.8 magnitude earthquake.

The engineering firm is working with the National Park Service to survey any exterior damage caused by the quake. Climbers will scale the monument today to look for cracks and small rocks — called spalls —  that may have come loose during the earthquake but are hanging onto the stone slabs.

“The climbers will communicate by radio with colleagues on the ground who will be documenting what the climbers observe,” Bob Vogel, of the National Park Service, said Monday. Vogel added the climbers will also remove any spalls they find by hand, if they can do so safely.

The park service also released new earthquake video from the observation deck of the monument Monday. The footage documents the violent rocking and shaking visitors felt near the top of the obelisk.  Vogel said the video shows the composure of park staff manning the monument that day.

“The ranger at the top had the presence of mind to immediately guide visitors to the emergency exit door on the 490-foot level … and then return to the 500-foot level to clear everyone out,” said Vogel.

The monument remains closed to visitors; National Park Service said it will have a better estimate for the re-opening date in mid-October.

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