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Burst pipe floods Ohio Statehouse's Senate chambers

The image depicts a hallway with a checkered floor. Two sets of doors stand open on the right with vacuums next to them. A decorated Christmas tree stands before a window in the background.
Jo Ingles
Statehouse News Bureau
Shop-Vacs and fans dry out damage in the Ohio Senate Chambers at the Ohio Statehouse.

Extremely cold temperatures in the Buckeye State caused damage to "The People's House," the nickname commonly given to the Ohio Statehouse, Tuesday.

Early that morning, a burst pipe led to flooding in the back of the historic Senate Chambers, where former President Abraham Lincoln once addressed lawmakers. Republican Senator Jay Hottinger, who is leaving the chamber after more than two decades, tweeted a video of the flooding with the caption: "My last day at the Statehouse not going very well."

The incident followed a spell of brutally cold weather across Ohio. On Friday morning at 6 a.m., the temperature in Columbus was -8 degrees, and the city didn't warm up much throughout the weekend.

Laura Battocletti, executive director of the Capital Square Review and Advisory Board, which oversees the Ohio Statehouse, said the burst pipe is part of the building's fire suppression system that runs above the ceiling in the Senate.

She said there wasn't significant damage to expensive technical equipment in the chamber.

"The biggest concern is going to be the carpet and being able to dry out the carpet," Battocletti said.

John Fortney, director of communications for the Ohio Senate, credits quick-thinking statehouse employees for immediately jumping into action to prevent damage that could have occurred.

"It's really fortunate that somebody was here and it didn't happen on Christmas Day because it's right between the second and third floors," Fortney said.

Fortney said work crews will be assessing the extent of actual damage in the ceiling around the Ohio Senate, the Ohio Senate Majority Caucus room, the Ohio press room and the area outside Governor DeWine's ceremonial office in the coming days. But he thinks much of the problem will be with carpet that cannot be salvaged by water extraction techniques. Regardless, Fortney said Ohio lawmakers will be back in the chambers to conduct business next week.

"We will be ready for the opening day January 3 for the 135th General Assembly," Fortney said.

Battocletti has dealt with damage to the Ohio Statehouse before. She oversaw repairs after the 2020 protests in Columbus when windows were broken and parts of the building were defaced by protestors. And she has had to deal with other minor incidents involving flooding in the building in recent years.

“Water is not our friend here at the Statehouse," Battocletti said.

Contact Jo Ingles at
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