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Thunderstorms delay Washington Monument inspection

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Inspectors at the Washington Monument had to delay work Wednesday because of potentially hazardous weather conditions in the area, a spokesman for the engineering team examining the structure said.

The team had planned to lower four inspectors on ropes from each of the four sides of the monument, said Daniel J. Lemieux of the Washington office of Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates Inc., the engineering firm conducting the inspections.

But thunderstorms in the area, and the possibility of lightning, prompted a pause, Lemieux said.

The engineers are in the process of examining the exterior of the 555-foot-tall structure for damage sustained in the 5.8-magnitude earthquake Aug. 23.

He said the team has been getting reports from the National Weather Service every 15 minutes.

“We’re obviously a little delayed here,” he said. “We do have that direct link with the Weather Service. ... They’re keeping us in the loop here. We’re hoping to get out. How much we get done today is just a little bit iffy.

“We can work in a light rain,” he said. “When there’s any electrical activity ... we not only need to be off the wall but out of the monument.

“We knew we were going to have a little bit of a delay,” he said. “But if you look at the forecast now, I think we’ll be able to get something done ... just not as much as we had hoped for. ”

The team began rigging ropes and harnesses Tuesday in preparation for its inspection of the monument’s marble exterior. Using mountain climbing equipment, the group plans to scrutinize each of the stones for damage.

The National Park Service has already said that some stones suffered extensive cracking, although the structure of the monument remains sound. The monument will be closed indefinitely, until the full extent of the damage is known, the Park Service said.

A full assessment of the damage could be available sometime next month.

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