- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Washington area spent much of Wednesday cautiously evaluating the structural integrity of its homes, schools, office buildings, bridges, rail lines and tunnels. By the end of the day, it appeared that Tuesday’s earthquake shook nerves more severely than anything else.

No deaths or serious injuries were reported as a result of the 5.8-magnitude quake that jolted much of the eastern United States.

Although many buildings in the D.C. area were closed for inspection, there was a general consensus that the aftermath could have been worse.

Several landmarks reported varying degrees of damage. At the Washington National Cathedral, repair estimates are in the millions of dollars, and officials say insurance won’t cover the costs.

Three of four spires atop the building’s central tower broke off, but the cathedral remains structurally sound. The Rev. Samuel T. Lloyd III, dean of the cathedral, said Wednesday that the damage was “quite serious - but certainly could have been much worse.”

“But there’s nothing in our budget that would allow us to step up and do this,” he said of the repairs, adding that the cathedral would have to “turn to people across the country” for help.

The Washington Monument remained closed as the National Park Service inspected cracks near the top of the 555-foot structure, and cracks were reported at the U.S. Capitol and the Rayburn House Office Building.

Large chunks of stone fell from the clock-tower above offices at the Armed Forces Retirement Home on North Capitol Street and plummeted through the roof of the building. The offices remained closed Wednesday as structural engineers continued work to stabilize the clock tower, which was built in the 1850s, spokeswoman Sheila Abarr said.

”Cranes are coming in tomorrow to shore up the building,” she said.

D.C. schools were closed Wednesday as inspectors made their way through buildings, including 13 educational facilities that were “red-flagged” because of serious damage.

Mayor Vincent C. Gray said 100 of the 125 city schools had been inspected as of about 6 p.m. Wednesday. The remaining 25 had not reported any initial damage, so city officials did not expect any problems.

Of the 100 that had been examined, School Without Walls in Northwest had enough problems with the masonry to warrant closure Thursday and possibly Friday.

“It definitely will be closed tomorrow,” Mr. Gray said.

Bancroft Elementary School in Northwest also fell within a “red zone” for significant damage, but “we don’t think sufficient enough to not be able to open the school,” he said.

Mr. Gray said six charter schools had asked for assistance in inspections, but the city did not know of any closures as of late Wednesday. The decision is up to the charter schools, and not the city’s public schools system, the mayor noted.

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