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Hurricane Irene reveals more cracks in Washington Monument

A fallen wooden state park fences is seen on the ground near the Washington Monument
A fallen wooden state park fences is seen on the ground near the Washington Monument

By Molly O'Toole

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Washington Monument has had a rough week.

When Hurricane Irene dumped rain on the East Coast over the weekend it left water in the Washington Monument, evidence of more cracks sustained during last Tuesday's earthquake, the U.S. National Park Service reported on Wednesday.

Carol Johnson, a Park Service spokeswoman for the National Mall and Memorial Parks, said standing water was found in the monument's stairwell and observation area after the hurricane, indicating leaks.

The leaks were found after engineering teams sealed cracks in the monument formed during the violent shaking of the rare, 5.8 magnitude eastern quake.

"The hurricane pointed out cracks and leaks that we didn't know about," said Johnson. "Either you couldn't see them or we just didn't have time to look at the whole thing."

"The monument always gets a little bit of water, but this was more water than usual, so we assume that it is from the earthquake."

Johnson said that a majority of the cracks are in the mortar between the monument's stones, which is designed to take the wear-and-tear and spare the stone itself.

Johnson added that a few stones have been cracked.

The NPS and engineers are going back to compare current damage to past records for the monument.

They will issue a report sometime next week, said Johnson.

"That will give us a better notion of what has to be done to repair it and how much it will cost," she said. "They said it's possible it could be opened up while they do some repair work, but as for timeline, I have no idea."

Johnson said this kind of damage -- beyond normal maintenance -- has never happened in the history of the currently weather-weary monument.

Thirteen national parks remain closed from the hurricane, said Kathy Kupper, another spokeswoman for the National Park Service.

The Washington Monument remains closed.

(Editing by Greg McCune)

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