The iconic Washington National Cathedral in Washington D.C. was heavily damaged during Tuesday afternoon's 5.8 magnitude earthquake. Cathedral officials are now saying that repairs could cost millions of dollars, and none of the damages are expected to be covered by the church's insurance.
Engineers are also concerned that additional damage could occur as hurricane Irene lumbers into the area. Richard Weinberg, a spokesman for the National Cathedral, spoke briefly with The Christian Post about the situation as of Friday morning.
“The central tower remains the number one concern, which is the area that was most damaged,” he said. “So any of the pieces that are precarious there that would not be able to withstand winds from the storm are what the concern is.”
Cracks have been found in some of the church's upper level floors and flying buttresses, carved angels have been found broken on the roof, and three of the four pinnacles on the central tower have been damaged and lost their finials as a result of the quake. The central tower is the highest elevated point in our nation's capital.
Weinberg says that engineers are “working around the clock” to identify all of the building's structural and aesthetic damage.
“And this is not going to be a fast process,” he said. “It will be thorough and done as quickly as possible but we just don't know [when they will be finished].”
Though the full extent of the damage is still unclear, Weinberg said that people shouldn't expect any changes to be made to the look of the building itself once repairs are made.
“I would assume that they would be restored to their original look,” he said.
Sunday's services at the cathedral have been moved to Washington Hebrew Congregation, as experts wait to see how much of an impact Irene will have on the facility. Officials are also setting up a fence around the perimeter of the building as a safety precaution, and say that it won't be open through at least Sunday, Sept. 4.
“As a living community of faith, we regret very much not being able to open for services this coming Sunday, but the need to take every measure to ensure safety and to mitigate the effects of any further damage from storm weather are our first priorities at this time,” said Cathedral Dean Samuel T. Lloyd III in a statement.
“Rest assured that our team is exploring every possibility in securing the grounds and has told us to practice an abundance of precaution so that the Cathedral can soon welcome visitors and worshipers again in a safe, sacred setting,” he said. “We are thankful to Washington Hebrew Congregation and Rabbi Bruce Lustig for inviting us to hold services there for the next two Sundays.”
The building's closing also means that the prayer service on Saturday leading up to Sunday's dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial has been moved, to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception located on Catholic University of America's campus.
The cathedral's upcoming “A Call to Compassion” event, which will commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11, is still scheduled to occur on Sept. 9 as planned.
The Washington National Cathedral was built between 1907 and 1990 on top of Mount St. Alban. Officials will soon be looking to restore the structure back to the way it was before this week's rare East Coast earthquake.