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Wind gusts blow back monument assessment

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 5:05 PM EDT, Sun October 2, 2011
Climber Erik Sohn assesses damage to the Washington Monument on Friday.
Climber Erik Sohn assesses damage to the Washington Monument on Friday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: The damage assessment of the Washington Monument won't begin again until Monday at the earliest
  • NEW: The National Park Service blames wind gusts for the delay
  • High winds blew one rapelling worker 30 feet away from the monument on Friday
  • Specialists are inspecting every inch of the monument for earthquake damage

Washington (CNN) -- Assessment of the earthquake-damaged Washington Monument will begin anew no earlier than Monday because of wind gusts, the National Park Service said in a statement released Sunday. The inspection was halted after wind blew one of the roped-in workers off the monument, and moved him 30 feet away, on Friday.

"Safety is always our first concern," Bob Vogel, superintendent of the National Mall and Memorial Parks, said in the statement. "And we had anticipated that there might be some weather delays." The Park Service said it would re-evaluate weather conditions at noon.

In an earlier statement, the National Park Police said as the engineering team was finishing Friday, climber Erik Sohn, who works for the Difficult Access Team from Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates (WJE), was lifted by the wind and pushed from the west face of the monument over to the south face.

"This is not unusual in these kinds of operations," Dan Lemieux, project manager from WJE, said in a statement. "Our guys are trained to deal with this kind of event. Erik's fine, and I think he even kind of enjoyed the ride."

Scaling down the Washington monument

The team is assessing the exterior of the monument following damage from an 5.8 magnitude earthquake that shook much of the East Coast on August 23.

"The heaviest damage appears to be concentrated at the very top of the monument, in what is called the pyramidion, where large cracks of up to 1 1/4 inch wide developed through stone and mortar joints," Vogel said. Rainwater has leaked into the monument through the cracks and that could cause further damage.

The Park Service said an interior assessment of the monument found it to be structurally sound and there is no danger of collapse.

The Difficult Access Team has mainly focused on the top of the monument but will eventually rappel down the sides for a full inspection. The Park Service officials say they hope the assessment is completed by October 14, at which point they will have a better idea when the monument can be reopened to the public.

CNN's Greg Clary contributed to this report.

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