The Capitol complex did not sustain any major damage Tuesday from the earthquake that struck Virginia and Washington, D.C., but staffers are beginning to find some cracks and minor damage around the aging buildings.
The Architect of the Capitol began inspecting the buildings soon after the quake hit and found them habitable before the day was done, said spokeswoman Eva Malecki.
“Our teams moved quickly to assess and inspect our buildings yesterday and determined that they are all safe to occupy,” she said. “We found only cosmetic issues, some cracks in the plaster, some chipped paint, a couple of small water leaks. We did many of the repairs and the clean up last evening, and it’s business as usual today.”
Among the minor damages that the complex sustained:
• A moderately sized piece of plaster fell from a wall above an arched entryway leading from Statuary Hall toward the House Floor.
• A large crack in the wall of the House Judiciary Committee hearing room on the first floor of the Rayburn House Office Building.
• A similar crack in the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing room on the same floor.
• A crack to the exterior of the Longworth House Office Building (part of the stairway is taped off).
• A crack in a wall inside a stairwell in Rayburn.
• Smaller cracks in the walls around Rayburn.
• Several elevators are out of commission in the Longworth, Cannon and Ford House office buildings.
House Office Buildings Superintendent William Weidemeyer sent a note to House offices Wednesday asking them to report any damage to the AOC.
“Building repairs and cleanup in public areas will continue over the next couple of days,” he wrote. “As you enter your suites you may notice cracks in the plaster or dry wall, fallen ceiling tiles or other superficial damage in need of repair. Should you need any repairs in your suite, please contact our Service Center at 202.225.4141 or go to http://isdhouse.aoc.gov/Home-House-New.html to report them and we will schedule work accordingly.”
Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance Gainer posted a note on his website Wednesday offering counseling services to any staffers who may be traumatized.
“You should know that the value of counseling and professional support after an earthquake, or any other sort of traumatic event, should never be underestimated,” he wrote.
House Chief Administrative Office Dan Strodel said Tuesday that he would offer similar services to House employees.
Some significant damage did occur at St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church, which is down the street from the Cannon building at C and 2nd streets SE and has been there since the 1890s. A large cross that sat across the façade of the building split in half and fell to the ground, Rev. William Byrne said.
“Part of it crashed on the steps. The other part fell backwards and put a gaping hole in the roof,” he said. “Someone would have been killed if they had been underneath it.”
The cross knocked chunks of stone off of the church’s exterior and two chimneys atop the building were seriously damages as well.
The hole in the roof comes at a bad time, Byrne noted, as the East Coast is expecting to be hit by Hurricane Irene this weekend.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.