Earthquake closes iconic Washington monuments -- for now
The Washington Monument and Lincoln and Jefferson memorials are closed to the public in the wake of today's 5.8 earthquake, and will remain closed until a proper safety assement can be completed, officials said.
There were conflicting reports late Tuesday about whether the Washington Monument -- one of the most instantly recognizable symbols of the nation's capital -- suffered any damage. The Associated Press reported that a crack was found near the top of the monument, which is both the world's tallest stone structure and the world's tallest obelisk, standing just over 555 feet tall.
But the National Park Service posted a different message on its website that made no mention of such damage: "The NPS has completed a preliminary inspection of the Washington Monument and has found it to be structurally sound. The Washington Monument grounds are being reopened except for the plaza and the Monument itself. The NPS will continue to inspect the interior of the Monument before any decisions are made about reopening it to the public."
The National Park Service temporarily closed the Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial and the Old Post Office Tower as a precaution following the earthquake, and those monuments could reopen to the public as early as Wednesday pending a safety clearance.
For now, though, "the Washington Monument, because of its structural complexities, will remain closed until further notice," the NPS website said.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, the World War II Memorial, Vietnam Memorial and the Korean War Memorial remain open, the NPS said.
-- Rene Lynch
On Twitter @renelynch
Photo: U.S. Park Police keep people away from the area surrounding the Washington Monument after a 5.8 earthquake. Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images