Wind blows Washington Monument engineer 30 feet


Photo courtesy of CNN

Dave Megerle pulls in a debris bag. Contractors from Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates conducting exterior assessment of the Washington Monument Sept. 30, 2011

CNN Wire Service

The National Park Service suspended assessment work of the earthquake-damaged Washington Monument Saturday, a day after wind blew one of the workers 30 feet away from the monument.

Climber Erik Sohn was unhurt and the Difficult Access Team from Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates hopes to resume work on the monument Sunday.

In a statement, the National Park Police said as the engineering team was finishing Friday, the wind lifted Sohn up and pushed him 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 Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, 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.”

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

“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,” said Bob Vogel, superintendent of the National Mall and Memorial Parks. 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 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 Oct. 14, at which point they will have a better idea when the monument can be reopened to the public.