Nearly a decade after a 5.8-magnitude earthquake shook the eastern United States, restoration operations at the damaged Washington National Cathedral have cost approximately $15 million and are likely to take another ten years.
The quake happened about 2 p.m. on Aug. 23, 2011, with the epicentre in Mineral, Va. Although it was not the biggest earthquake to strike the region, the US Geological Survey reported it spread throughout the eastern United States and was felt by millions, maybe more than any other earthquake in North American history.
“One of the fascinating things we discovered was heightened ground shaking in Washington, D.C., resulting in damage to buildings in the city at distances that would not ordinarily be expected,” said Thomas Pratt, who is a USGS research geophysicist and expert in eastern earthquakes.
Workers and residents poured out of buildings in the nation’s capital, prompting traffic jams and disruption to mobile service. Luckily, no deaths or significant injuries were reported in the incident.
But the National Cathedral didn’t fair so well.
Spires topping the church’s central tower lost their capstones, interior upper floors and the building’s flying buttresses were cracked, and falling decorative elements damaged the roof. Stone pieces weighing more than two tons fell off the roof, plummeting 300 feet.
Joe Alonso, the head stone mason at the cathedral, said he heard the church bells ringing on their own as they swayed in the shaking.
“When the earthquake happened, I thought, ‘Wow, we have got a task ahead of us,'” he told The Washington Post. “Everything here is handmade. You look at the incredible detail on the stone carvings here and it’s all hand done … It’s just the nature of the work.”
The structure of the building, on the other hand, was not seriously damaged.
According to church officials, the earthquake caused $34 million in damage, with around $15 million in repairs completed after ten years. However, repairs are still underway and could take another decade to complete as the church seeks donations to pay for the restoration.