The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Washington Monument closed for second day in a row

A view of the lightning that hit the Washington Monument at 11:14 p.m. on June 14. The monument was also struck by lightning this past weekend, causing damage to some electronics that help operate the popular tourist site. (Kevin Ambrose)
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For the second day in a row, the Washington Monument was closed after it was struck by lightning over the weekend.

Officials with the National Park Service said Tuesday that crews were waiting on parts for an electronic access system that was damaged in the lightning strike. The system operates the doors and elevator at the popular tourist site.

Mike Litterst, a spokesman for the National Park Service, said it was not known when the part would arrive. Until then, crews could not do the needed repairs, he said, so he had no estimate as to when the Monument would reopen.

The lightning hit about 12:30 a.m. Sunday, and no one was hurt.

On Monday, officials had said they expected the monument to reopen Tuesday.

Litterst said the monument regularly gets struck by lightning, especially in the summer months when there are storms. An analysis by The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang, done 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 was at least the second time the Washington Monument has been struck by lightning this year. On June 14, a bolt also hit the tip of the monument and was photographed by Kevin Ambrose. In June 2020, a photographer in Arlington captured a lightning 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 electrical system allows the key cards to work for staffers so they can enter the building and access calls and send the elevator, he said.

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

The lightning strike this past weekend 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 hardest hit as floodwaters entered homes and submerged numerous roadways.

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

All visitors are instructed that they 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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