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Friday, May 8, 2009

Walls knocked out in State House, but structure solid after flooding

The power is back on at the Alabama State House after flooding in the basement caused it to be cut off Thursday morning. The outage forced lawmakers to meet across the street in the historic House and Senate chambers in the Capitol for the first time since 1985.

And with the air conditioning for both buildings based in the State House, both structures were without a cooling system on Thursday and Friday.

About four feet of water got into the basement, which knocked out at least five interior walls and an exterior wall, said Don Ladner, administrative assistant to the clerk of the House.

He said the exterior wall was part of the renovation in the 1980s "so it's not a structural issue."

"It was incredible to see how the force of that water came through there," Ladner said. "I am thankful people were not in the two offices in there."

He is unsure when air conditioners can be turned back on in the building, but said late Monday is optimistic.

Ladner is hopeful the staff can get back in the building at full strength on Tuesday. Employees did not report on Friday because the State House was shut down. He said some employees will report on Monday "regardless of the air situation."

"But I don't expect the whole building to be there," Ladner said. "We'll be running a light staff."

Along with the damage to the walls, Ladner said an unknown amount of furniture was destroyed along with at least two "very expensive printers and copiers."

On Friday, Servpro was blowing in hot air and bringing it back out, which Ladner said is intended to remove the moisture.

Even with that removal of the moisture, the building has a history of leaks, mold and mildew.

"I expect this to worsen our existing mold problem," he said.

There was leakage from the roof, Ladner said.

"We recently had some patching done," he said. "We are trying not to put a lot of money in this building. We patched several areas of the roof, but we do not know what held and what didn't. The rain was too much for it."

Crews finished pumping out the water Thursday night, Ladner said.

Some people were still arriving on Friday and tried to start their vehicles that flooded on Thursday, he said.

The vehicles of some staffers and lawmakers were totaled and were taken out of the parking deck and parking lot by a tow truck. Ladner said at least three vehicles were towed on Friday.

If the computer system reboots OK, Ladner said he was hopeful to have the information "back the way it should be Monday afternoon." Without the use of the computer system, legislative staff used paper to record the action so the activity from Thursday must be updated in the system to prepare for Thursday and Friday, the final two days of the session.

The concern, Ladner said, is the switches that are the backbone of the network are old.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

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Location: Montgomery, AL, United States

South Union Street is the blog of Montgomery Advertiser political reporters Markeshia Ricks and Sebastian Kitchen. Always check here for the latest on the Legislature, elections and other activities and players in Alabama.

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