The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Washington Monument closed after lightning strike

Lightning hit the Washington Monument at 11:14 p.m. on June 14. The same thing happened about 12:30 a.m. Aug. 15, a spokesman for the National Park Service said. (Kevin Ambrose/for The Washington Post)

The Washington Monument was closed Monday and is expected to remain closed Tuesday after being struck by lightning over the weekend.

Officials with the National Park Service said in a Twitter message Monday that the popular tourist site was closed “as we repair damage to the electronic access system caused by Sunday morning’s lightning strike.”

Mike Litterst, a spokesman for the National Park Service, said Monday that the lightning hit about 12:30 a.m. Sunday and that no one was hurt.

Crews were working to fix the electrical system and hoped to resolve the issue so the monument could reopen Tuesday, he said.

Litterst said the monument regularly gets struck by lightning, especially in the summer, when there are storms. An analysis by The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang in June 2020 found that lightning hits the monument up to a couple of times per year on average but that numbers vary summer to summer.

How often does lightning strike the Washington Monument?

According to the CWG, it is at least the second time the Washington Monument has been struck by lightning this year. On June 14, a bolt intercepted the tip of the monument and was photographed by Kevin Ambrose. In June 2020, a photographer in Arlington captured a bolt hitting the monument.

What made this latest incident different is that it was the “first time we’ve had any issue with the electronics getting scrambled,” Litterst said.

The monument’s electrical system was recently upgraded, and he said the elevator was fine after the lightning strike, but “this may be one of those things where we’re finding out its sensitivities” with the new system. The system allows the key cards to work for staffers so they can enter the building and access the elevator, he said.

Litterst said the “width and size of the bolt were quite impressive” and may have played a role in the damage.

The lightning strike occurred as an intense complex of thunderstorms moved over the Washington region, triggering flash flood warnings. Parts of Alexandria, where up to four to five inches of rain fell in less than two hours, were hit hardest as floodwaters entered homes and submerged numerous roadways.

The Washington Monument had to shut down in March 2020 when the coronavirus hit the D.C. region. It briefly reopened in October but closed again in January. It reopened in mid-July.

All visitors must wear masks “regardless of vaccination status, inside the Washington Monument.” To buy tickets, visitors should go to recreation.gov. No tickets are given out at the site.

Since the monument reopened in July, officials said, ticket reservations have been filled every day and go quickly. The site is operating at a reduced capacity because of covid. Litterst said the Park Service probably will increase visitor capacity for the monument once the District’s “covid numbers are moving in a downward direction.”

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