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Flash flooding hits Alabama hard

Torrential rains and flooding likely left one person dead Thursday in Alabama, and lawmakers had to evacuate the statehouse after the basement filled with four feet of water and collapsed a wall.
Statehouse Flooding
A fireman climbs to a car to check for signs of life Thursday after it was swept into a drainage ditch from a parking lot about a quarter mile away in Montgomery, Ala. The man who had been seen in the car was not found and presumed dead. Dave Martin / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Torrential rains and flooding likely killed one person Thursday in central Alabama, and lawmakers had to evacuate the statehouse after the basement filled with four feet of water and collapsed a wall.

Some 700 people had to evacuate, and legislators continued their work at the old Capitol building across the street — where Jefferson Davis was once sworn in as president of the Confederacy. They had to make due without computers and other modern conveniences, including air conditioning, in the building that now serves as a museum. Regular business hadn't been conducted there in more than 20 years.

Street flooding was so bad at one point at the Statehouse that legislators halted work to check on their cars, some submerged in window-high water.

"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.

Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange had said a woman was killed when her car was swept off the road near Montgomery Mall. But officials later said a man was driving and that while he likely drowned, they were not ruling out the possibility that he somehow survived and were still searching.

In Tuskegee, a family had to be rescued from their mobile home after a tree fell into it Thursday morning. No one was hurt.

Weather officials also confirmed that a Wednesday tornado caused damage across two counties in north Alabama. Michael Coyne of the weather service office in Huntsville said the tornado left a path of destruction nearly 11 miles long that was up to 75 yards wide in places.

More than 100 homes and businesses were damaged in the South on Wednesday by strong winds, heavy rains and golf ball-sized hail. Strong winds damaged homes in Arkansas and North Carolina, and debris blocked roads and damaged houses in north Mississippi. No serious injuries were reported.

Officials also increased the flow of water through dams to ease swollen rivers, including the Mississippi.