Today, Mayor Vincent C. Gray submitted a letter to President Barack Obama requesting a disaster declaration for the District of Columbia because of the impact of the unprecedented 5.8 magnitude earthquake the region experienced August 23. The Mayor’s request came a day after he toured the grounds of the Washington National Cathedral with Andrew Hullinger, the cathedral’s Senior Director for Finance and Administration, to personally assess the damage caused by the tremor.
The declaration, if granted, will allow the District to seek reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for structural and non-structural repairs to schools, universities, hospitals, government buildings, roads, bridges and tunnels damaged by the quake. The request will also include federal assistance for historic landmarks like the National Cathedral, the hardest-hit structure in the District of Columbia and one of the city’s major tourist destinations.
In total, the earthquake caused more than $6.8 million in structural and non-structural damage to District government facilities. This includes more than $4.3 million in damage to educational facilities and more than $2.4 million in damage to non-educational municipal facilities. The cost for damages to other structures in the District is yet to be determined.
“We look forward to working with the federal government to identify the best ways to recover from damages to our infrastructure and facilities like roads, bridges, schools and landmarks like the National Cathedral,” said Mayor Gray.
The National Cathedral, which the mayor referred to as a national treasure, is a key part of the city’s culture, history and economy and has been closed to the public since the earthquake hit the region. The aid that Mayor Gray is requesting for damages to the cathedral, which they estimate to be $15 million, would advance the first phase of repairs to the building’s damaged exterior.
“I believe we must do everything we can to help the cathedral recover from this damage,” said Mayor Gray. “This treasured monument welcomes a half-million people from across the world annually, and their visits have a tremendous impact on the city’s economy.”
The cathedral is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was scheduled to host the prayer service for the dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial, but had to be relocated along with other dedication events due to the earthquake.
The cathedral is scheduled to reopen to the public beginning on Sunday, November 13, one day after the consecration of the Rev. Dr. Mariann Edgar Budde as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington.