Reporting Alex DeMetrick
WASHINGTON (WJZ)—Some heart-stopping work is underway on top of the Washington Monument. Damaged in the August 5.8 magnitude earthquake, the centerpiece of the National Mall needs repairs.
Alex DeMetrick has details from the monument.
On a day where weather kept birds close to the ground, 550-feet up a structural engineer stepped out of a window in the Washington Monument, supported by ropes and climbing gear.
“It’s actually a process that’s used in big wall climbing like Yosemite on El Capitan,” said Gordy Kito, U.S. Park Service ranger. “The first person would go up, set the ropes, and the second person rather than climbing on these big walls ascends the rope itself.”
Other engineers will use the rigging to look for exterior damage to the monument, after last month’s rare 5.8 earthquake.
Surveillance video inside the top floor caught the quake and ranger Nikolette Williams.
“It was absolutely terrifying,” Williams said. “It was shaking so violently. To have the mortar falling on your head, the fear was so high I was sure we were under attack. I didn’t know at first it was an earthquake.”
With the elevator too dangerous, Williams walked 20 visitors down 900 steps to safety.
“I opened an emergency exit door, and it’s a stairwell that leads to the bottom,” Williams said. “I began yelling at everyone telling them to go down the stairs, and that’s why you see this rush of people behind me going down the stairs.”
Because there is no steel structure, the only thing holding the monument up is stone and mortar. Looking for cracks, stopped people in their tracks.
“I think that the person that’s working there has some steel nerves,” said Peter, visitor.
“Oh my God. Oh so scary. Not for me. But it’s wonderful that they’re trying to find out what is the trouble up there,” said Bertie Palenstyn, visitor.
Surveying the damage is expected to take a week. How long it will take to repair is still anyone’s guess.
Cracks have allowed water to seep inside the monument. Sealing those cracks before the weather turns cold is priority, since freezing could expand the damage.