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Flooding forces Ala. Legislature out of Statehouse

Flooding at the Alabama Statehouse on Thursday forced the Legislature to move to the old Capitol, marking the first time in 23 years the assembly would conduct regular business in the historic building.

The basement of the Statehouse was flooded with four feet of water, forcing staff to turn off the electricity in the building as a safety precaution. Without lights or working elevators, the House and Senate decided to recess and move to the Capitol, which sits on a hill across the street and wasn’t affected.

The House and Senate were to reconvene at the Capitol around 1:30 p.m.

After Thursday, there are only two working days left in the 2009 regular session. If the House and Senate had to cancel Thursday’s session, it would have killed bills that needed action to pass before the final day of May 15.

Work was disrupted Thursday morning when floodwaters turned the streets and parking lot at the Statehouse into a lake, submerging cars.

“It is unusual to see cars floating in the parking lot. But it’s just a car. Thankfully no one was hurt,” said state Sen. Harri Anne Smith, R-Slocomb, whose new Hyundai Genesis was flooded.

Derek Hamilton, chief sergeant of arms at the Statehouse, said four feet of water was standing in the building’s basement.

“This is the worst I’ve seen in my 16 years,” Hamilton said.