Work Underway to Repair National Cathedral

Monday, Sep 5, 2011  |  Updated 2:13 PM EDT
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A massive crane was in place on Monday working to repair portions of the National Cathedral damaged by the 5.8 magnitude earthquake last month.

A massive crane was in place on Monday working to repair portions of the National Cathedral damaged by the 5.8 magnitude earthquake last month.

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Work is underway to repair the Washington National Cathedral.

A 500-foot crane removed debris from the around the cathedral's towers on Monday morning.  After the broken stone is cleared from the structure's upper surfaces, engineers said scaffolding would be erected to repair the cathedral's damaged spires.

The crew that will place the scaffolding came down from New York City, and is the same company that put up scaffolding around the Statue of Liberty during its recent renovations. 

Engineers said repairs are still in the early, stabilization stage.  After the scaffolding goes up, repairs could take months or years to complete.

The August 23 earthquake that registered 5.8 shook the cathedral and its towers, causing damage to limestone exterior and some interior areas.

The "Gloria in Excelsis" central tower of Washington National Cathedral -- the highest elevated point in Washington -- sustained what cathedral masons called "significant damage." Early estimates pegged repair costs in the millions of dollars.

Pinnacles atop the cathedral's other towers also sustained damage.  A 3,000 pound piece of the southwest pinnacle cracked and slid off, but did not breach the concrete of the roof.  The northwest pinnacle was also leaning at an angle after the quake.

"Cracks have appeared in the flying buttresses around the apse [long, narrow tower] at the cathedral's east end, the first portion of the building to be constructed, but the buttresses supporting the central tower seem to be sound," the cathedral's caretakers wrote in a press release in the days after the quake.

The landmark has been closed to the public ever since the quake.

Officials plan to erect tunnels over the entranceways for extra protection against falling debris, so that the cathedral can open for visitors on September 11.
 

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