May 12th, 2009
02:45 PM ET
8 years ago

Summer blockbuster: snakes in the Capitol

(CNN) – A snake caused trouble in the Missouri State Capitol Tuesday.

That's not a personal attack on a politician or a lobbyist. A real-life snake slithered into underground power cables in downtown Jefferson City, plunging the Capitol Building into darkness right in the middle of the debates in the House and Senate.

The blackout happened during the final week of a contentious legislative session. In the Senate, lawmakers were debating a resolution to block any Guantanamo Bay detainees from being moved to prisons in the state. Representatives in the House were about to vote on an anti-bullying measure.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch political reporter Tony Messenger, who was in the chamber when the lights went out, said the leadership decided they could see, so the sessions continued. With candles burning in hallways and offices, Messenger said it became "a hat tip to the senators who served in the building many, many years ago."

With no power for the automated boards, lawmakers voted the old-fashioned way. Procedures took a long time, Messenger said, as opposed to the instant electronic votes. Since the bells to notify members of votes were inoperable, legislative doormen were sent to bring everyone into the chambers.

But even as they resorted to the methods of days gone by, lawmakers used their Blackberries to Twitter through the blackout. State Rep. Jason Kander of Kansas City wrote: "Everyone is seated. Listening to debate. We should always have the power go out."

Capitol Police Chief Todd Hurt told CNN everything ran smoothly through the blackout. The biggest problem was people stuck in elevators: Most were able to get out on their own, but emergency crews had to rescue three people who were trapped.

No one was hurt, and the only casualty was the three-foot long snake. Electric company spokeswoman Susan Gallagher said it ended up between two cables, shorting them out. "I've been here 18 years and it's the first time I've seen this," she said. "How he squeezed in there, we'll never know."

Messenger said the snake caused plenty of buzz in political circles, noting reports of a political corruption investigation "made the snake metaphor have a little more meaning."

"Jokes were plentiful all day," he said.

The throwback sessions lasted just an hour as power was restored and modern conveniences returned.

Filed under: Missouri
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