Despite Superstorm Sandy’s heavy winds and rain that caused floods, downed power lines and felled trees throughout much of the Washington, D.C., area, Capitol Hill is still standing.
Members of the House and Senate who return to the Capitol this afternoon to hold brief pro forma sessions will find the Capitol pretty much the way they left it, Architect of the Capitol spokeswoman Eva Malecki said this morning.
“The campus came through just fine,” she said. “We had a tree come down on the Senate side that we’ll be removing and some scattered tree branches throughout the campus, but saw no significant damages either inside the buildings or outside.”
It is good news given the condition of the Capitol Dome, suffering from 1,300 known cracks and 150 years of weather damage. The dome has become the centerpiece in political arguments over whether budget austerity should come at the expense of appropriating $61 million for continue restoration efforts.
The Cannon House Office Building was vulnerable during the storm as well. The 100-year-old building is scheduled for a major renovation set to begin no early than January 2017, but is increasingly straining under the weight of its age. Over the past year, on separate occasions, a leak damaged several office suites and a 64-square-foot section of plaster fell from the fourth-floor ceiling.
The Library of Congress also came through the storm in one piece, as did the untold volumes of rare and valuable materials and books that are piled on the floor of the stacks because of space and shelving challenges, exposing them to potential damage in the event of flooding.
“Architect of the Capitol personnel, coordinating with Library staff, have been at work throughout the storm conducting regular inspections and monitoring for any problems. We are happy to report that all collections and equipment are safe and sound,” LOC spokeswoman Gayle Osterberg said.
The LOC’s facility in Culpeper, Va., that houses audio-visual collections did experience a brief power outage, Osterberg said, but generators were able to fill that void.
“We expect regular power to be restored later today,” she said. “We have also identified a handful of minor leaks that have been managed and have no impact on collections or equipment.”
The Capitol Police force maintained its presence throughout the storm, and reported today that it confronted no major issues.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, speaks with reporters in the Capitol after a speech on the Senate floor that accused the CIA of searching computers set up for Congressional staff for their research of interrogation programs.