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Image: A fallen wooden state park fence is seen on the ground near the Washington Monument
Benjamin Myers  /  Reuters
A fallen wooden state park fence is seen on the ground near the Washington Monument on Sunday.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 8/31/2011 7:45:33 PM ET 2011-08-31T23:45:33

The National Park Service says engineers sealed cracks in the Washington Monument from last week's earthquake ahead of Hurricane Irene. But now they have found water inside that may indicate more leaks.

Story: Obama to tour hurricane damage in New Jersey

Carol Johnson, a Park Service spokeswoman for the National Mall and Memorial Parks, said standing water was found in the monument's stairwell and observation area after the hurricane, indicating leaks.

The Park Service is awaiting another report from contract engineers who are experts in earthquake damage.

"The hurricane pointed out cracks and leaks that we didn't know about," said Johnson. "Either you couldn't see them or we just didn't have time to look at the whole thing."

"The monument always gets a little bit of water, but this was more water than usual, so we assume that it is from the earthquake."

Federal News Radio reports engineers have installed a fence around the base of the monument because of a few thin layers of falling debris. Still, Johnson says the monument is structurally sound and "not going anywhere."

Image: Washington Monument
National Park Service via AFP - Getty Images
The inside of the pyramidion of Washington Monument in Washington, DC, a day after a large earthquake struck the region in August 2011.

Breaks in the upper triangle of the marble structure were discovered last week after the 5.8 earthquake that shook the capital and much of the East Coast on Aug. 23, NBC Washington reported.

Engineers discovered an initial 4-inch crack after a helicopter inspection last week, and a follow-up search uncovered three more cracks in the structure.

With Hurricane Irene approaching the region, engineers dispatched a crew to the monument on Friday to install material in the cracks to keep water from the storm entering the structure, according to NBC Washington.

Johnson said that a majority of the cracks are in the mortar between the monument's stones, which is designed to take the wear-and-tear and spare the stone itself.

Johnson added that a few stones have been cracked.

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The NPS and engineers are going back to compare current damage to past records for the monument.

They will issue a report sometime next week, said Johnson.

"That will give us a better notion of what has to be done to repair it and how much it will cost," she said. "They said it's possible it could be opened up while they do some repair work, but as for timeline, I have no idea."

Johnson said this kind of damage — beyond normal maintenance — has never happened in the history of the currently weather-weary monument.

Thirteen national parks remain closed from the hurricane, said Kathy Kupper, another spokeswoman for the National Park Service.

The Washington Monument remains closed.

The Associated Press, Reuters and msnbc.com staff contributed to this report.

Video: How Irene can be an opportunity for US investment

  1. Closed captioning of: How Irene can be an opportunity for US investment

    >> reporter: one of the ten costliest disasters in history. is there opportunity for american investment? we have the president elect of the civil engineers from pittsburgh. good morning. there was a study by your group that gave us a d for infrastructure. after a storm like irene, what is the first thing you want to

    >> the report card covered 15 categories of infrastructure. we would like to look at the roads. that was one of the lower areas, a d minus. water pipes and waste water pipes, some of those are over 100 years old.

    >> let me show you the pictures we saw. in vermont, people are stuck in their communities because the roads and bridges are washed away. with better infrastructure could this problem have been avoided?

    >> irene and other hurricanes show the vulnerabilities of our infrastructure. it is ageing and in poor condition. we have to make investments to improve it and make it more resilient.

    >> let's talk about those investments. this is going to be a debate in congress, i don't think there's any doubt about that. where do you think the money could be best used and do you have any idea how many jobs could be created?

    >> many jobs created and saved if you look at the current bills. one of the bills we would lose 500,000 jobs a year. investment in infrastructure, we have many studies that have shown the investment of $1 billion created 30,000 to 35,000 jobs.

    >> that infrastructure report we were talking about suggested the u.s. to get to a grade b would cost more than $2 trillion. realistically, how much money do you think we need to start? the trillions are not going to happen, obviously.

    >> to bring the d up to a b would take $2.2 trillion. half of that money is spent in normal expenditured so the deficit is about $1 trillion over a five-year period.

    >> a lot of the infrastructure money we are spending now supports growth in new communities, but little for ageing structures. are we making a mistake there?

    >> in roads and bridges area, the department of transportation are making hard decisions. they are trying to decide what to do to make the roads and bridges safe and how to spend the limited dollars they have. there is growth. some money is going to that. we have to look at the maintenance repair of roads and bridges.

    >> andy herman, thank you so

Photos: East Coast Earthquake

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  1. (Nate Beeler / Washington Examiner, PoliticalCartoons.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. (David Fitzsimmons / Arizona Daily Star, PoliticalCartoons.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. (Nate Beeler / Washington Examiner, PoliticalCartoons.com) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Nate Beeler / Washington Examiner, PoliticalCartoons.com
    Above: Slideshow (5) East Coast Earthquake
  2. Image: Homeowner Jon Graham removes items from his demolished home
    Vyto Starinskas / AP
    Slideshow (150) Hurricane Irene

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