Tourists, government workers, and public school students in the Washington, D.C., area are feeling lingering effects of the 5.8 magnitude earthquake that rattled the East Coast Tuesday afternoon.
For tourists enjoying a sunny, late-summer Wednesday in the nation’s capital, the most visible aftereffect of the quake is the iconic Washington Monument on the National Mall. The National Park Service closed the 555-foot-high stone spire, which is 127 years old, after discovering a crack at its very top. The park service said the monument, the world's largest obelisk, will remain closed for “an indefinite period of time.”
The Smithsonian Institution Building on the Mall, which resembles a castle, also is closed, although various popular Smithsonian museums are open to tourists taking in the sights. The castle's closure came about as a result of cracks and broken glass at the popular tourist destination, which was built in 1857.
Officials also closed the Washington National Cathedral after cracks appeared on the building’s east side and stones fell from its central tower. The chief mason at the Episcopal cathedral told The Hill newspaper that a piece of stone weighing 3,000 pounds fell from the central tower. A statement on the cathedral's website said there is " substantial damage in this quake. Experts are tirelessly working to assess the building damage – both structurally and aesthetically."
The White House, the Capitol, and most Smithsonian museums are open for tourists. However, several federal departments are closed Wednesday as a result of quake-related damages. Headquarters for the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Agriculture, Homeland Security, and Interior are all closed to allow for inspection for structural damage. Also shuttered are headquarters of the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Endowment for the Arts. Federal workers have the option of taking unscheduled leave or working online from home.
The aftereffects of the quake also are providing some early vacation for area students. District of Columbia public schools are closed to allow for inspections. Schools are also closed in some neighboring areas, including Prince George’s County in Maryland, and Fauquier, Culpeper, and Spotsylvania counties in Virginia.
The North Anna Power Station, located near the quake epicenter in Louisa County, Va., remains offline Wednesday morning, the Associated Press reported. Safety systems took it offline automatically after the quake Tuesday. Dominion Virginia Power, which operates the facility, said the plant is no longer relying on emergency generators and is again using regular power. The company did not say when the plant’s two reactors would be restarted.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said 12 East Coast nuclear power plants that were not taken offline were inspected after the quake. No major damage was found during the inspections, and there was no danger to the public, the NRC said.
Material from the Associated Press was used for this story.