The National Parks Service has officially closed the Washington Monument to visitors indefinitely. The monument will not be open to the public until a thorough assessment can be made as to the extent of the damage caused by Tuesday’s massive earthquake that hit a large portion of the Northeastern United States.
Though the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials were closed for a portion of the day, both reopened Tuesday evening. The Washington Monument remains closed because of cracks that were discovered at the top of the enormous stone tower. Today, the National Parks Service will be have structural engineers inspecting the monument for damage and stability.
The Washington Monument is the largest stone tower in the world at 555 feet. It isn’t difficult to understand why the National Parks Service would would be hesitant to let tourists near the tower and why they have also cordoned off the grounds below the tower 100 feet in every direction. Immediately after the earthquake, rumors abound that the monument itself was beginning to lean, though those rumors have since been disproved.
Though the epicenter of Tuesday’s 5.8 earthquake was in Mineral, Virginia, its effects could be felt along much of the East Coast. This is the largest earthquake to hit the Eastern United States in 114 years. The last large East Coast quake happened in 1897, centered in Southwest Virginia and registered at approximately 5.9 on the Richtor scale.