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Flood At Washington State Archives Dampens County Birth And Death Records

When staff members arrived at the Washington State Archives Friday, the reading room looked like a ”swimming pool,” says state archivist Steve Excell.

A newly-installed kitchen sink line had flooded overnight, damaging archives, including marriage and birth records from the late 1800s.

Still, the damage could have been much worse; though records got wet, none was ruined, says Excell.

In the bowels of the Archives where the records are stored, blue tarps and sheets of clear plastic could be seen everywhere on Friday. Dampened documents lay on drying tables.

A flood is an archivist’s nightmare, says Excell.

“The only thing worse is a fire, so, no, this is not a good day,” he said.

But even in a flood, Excell is a glass-half-full kind of guy. He’s glad this didn’t happen on a weekend.

“[It’d] be much worse, but we got lucky,” he said.

Drying everything out is expected to take several days.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.