One year after quake, repairs just getting started

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Local,DC,Maryland,Virginia,Rachel Baye

One year ago, a rare 5.8 magnitude earthquake shook the Washington area, shocking residents and damaging icons like the Washington Monument and the National Cathedral, not to mention many residents' homes. But much of the repair work has only just begun.

The earthquake was the largest on the East Coast since a similar one hit upstate New York in 1944, and there hasn't been a quake this size in Virginia in roughly a century, according to Rob Williams, a seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. "We don't really have a good handle on what causes earthquakes here, but it's pretty unlikely ... that there would be another one in the near future in the same area."

Louisa County, the quake's epicenter, saw the bulk of the damage, including $61 million worth of repairs needed at Louisa County schools.

Though the damage in the Washington area was less severe, the structures that were damaged are iconic.

At the Washington National Cathedral, the earthquake radiated upward, damaging the top of the central towers and the buttresses along the sides. Repairs are estimated to cost about $20 million and to take between five and 10 years, according to a spokesman for the cathedral. The past year has been spent "securing the building" with scaffolding on the outside and netting -- to catch falling stones and plaster -- on the inside, and hand-carving stones to replace the damaged ones. The actual restoration officially begins Thursday, on the one-year anniversary of the quake.

Repairs to the Washington Monument have not begun, either.

"The National Park Service is still finalizing a contract in order to have repairs done to the Washington Monument, and we will be making that announcement in the next couple of weeks," said spokesman Bill Line. "We have been doing the internal analysis up to this point."

The earthquake caused cracks on both the inside and outside of the monument.

Line would not say how much the repairs would cost before releasing the details of the contract. The National Park Service hopes to have the monument reopened to visitors in the next year to year and a half, he said.

But for now, that means some tourists hoping to go to the top have been disappointed.

Nicole Hayden, who drove from Minnesota to tour Washington, was disappointed at not being able to go into the monument. "Our ... bridge fell in Minnesota -- in Minneapolis -- and it was up within a year, and the bridge is like 50 times that size, so why wouldn't the government be able to repair everything and have it so that civilians can actually go and visit?"

rbaye@washingtonexaminer.com

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