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Washington Monument descent on hold due to weather

September 27, 2011 |  1:39 pm

The hottest ticket in Washington, D.C.? That would be a front-row seat to watch engineering and climbing experts descend the Washington Monument to look for earthquake damage.

For now, though, the descent is on hold because of threatened thunderstorms. (The top of the Washington Monument, surrounding by rigging equipment, is probably one of the last places you'd want to be during a thunderstorm.)

This photo shows the scene earlier today as Dave Megerle, a member of the Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates' "Difficult Access Team," attaches ropes to the top of the Washington Monument. The setup paves the way for experts to simultaneously -- and slowly -- rappel down each side of the monument and comb it for damage when the weather permits.

The monument's elevator system was damaged in a magnitude 5.8 earthquake that was centered in Virginia and rocked much of the East Coast on Aug. 23. Several of the monument's exterior tiles also cracked. All the damage seems to be in the top 100 feet of the monument, and the exterior view is needed before authorities can put together a restoration plan. Experts gain access to the outside through a hatch at the top.

The Washington Monument, the world's tallest obelisk, is considered a must-see for visitors to the nation's capital. For now, the popular tourist attraction remains closed to the public, although the grounds are open to visitors.


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Credit: Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press