The Washington Monument will be closed indefinitely to the public as engineers have found additional cracks in the stones at the top of the structure.
The 5.9-magnitude quake centering in Virginia struck the U.S. East Coast from North Carolina to Toronto early Tuesday afternoon and cracked one of the stones in the monument's pyramidium, or the pyramid shape at the very top.
According to the National Park Service (NPS), a secondary inspection has revealed some cracking in the stones at the top of the 555-foot monument. Structural engineers were evaluating the cracks on Wednesday to determine the best way to repair the Monument before it is reopened.
The initial damage was detected during an inspection by helicopter, according to spokesman Bill Line.
“We’re not sure how long it will take. The engineers are going up there today. They may need to go tomorrow. And they may need to go again the day after that. But until we figure out how badly the structure has been damaged, no one else will be going up other than them,” said Bill Line, New York Times reported.
The park service is bringing in engineers from two firms, which specialize in investigating earthquake-damaged structures after major earthquakes, to conduct a more detailed inspection on Thursday.
Following the earthquake, rumors buzzed the Internet that the Washington Monument was tilting. The initial Fox News report was picked up by media outlets as well as Twitter, followed up by seismologist John Rundle, who asserted the possibility for the Washington Monument to tilt, suggesting an examination of the obelisk's structure.
However, the National Park Service debunked reports that the monument was leaning.
The Washington Monument grounds are being reopened except for the plaza and the monument itself. The NPS will continue to inspect the interior before any decisions are made about reopening it to the public.
The United States Geological Survey has confirmed that a 5.9 magnitude earthquake struck central Virginia at 1:51 pm EDT. It is the strongest quake to hit Virginia area since 1897.
The earthquake originated in Mineral, Va., an area between Richmond and Charlottesville, but its impact was felt all along the East Coast. Property damage was reported in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Md., and multiple major buildings in Washington and New York were evacuated.
Buildings in downtown Washington were rattled, causing evacuation in parts of the Pentagon and White House. The nation's capital saw mild damage to some of its buildings, including the National Cathedral.
The earthquake is the largest to ever hit the D.C. area, bettering a previous high of 3.6 in that area. Washington experienced major problems with cellphone communications as well.