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Wash. data center crash just now coming to light

071811AJ_DataCenter.jpg
Northwest News Network
Washington’s new State Data Center complex on the capitol campus.";

A power surge and outage on Washington’s Capitol campus last month shut down the state’s data center. The accident also caused half-a-million dollars damage to an underground electricity vault.

State officials did not publicize the incident. It is just now coming to light.

The power failure on a Sunday night crashed state computer servers and delayed some unemployment checks from going out. Joanne Todd, a spokesperson for Washington’s Department of Information Services, says the data center went black after a power surge knocked out electricity and shut down the back up generators.

“The generator saw that there was a huge amount of power coming back at it and it’s automatically geared to shut down which is exactly what it did. Otherwise it really would have really been fried,” Todd said.

The power surge happened as the state’s General Administration agency was trying to install a new high-voltage power line on the Capitol campus. According to an internal memo, equipment in the underground electricity vault short-circuited.

State computer services were back up the following Monday morning, but on generator power. The last time Washington’s data center blacked out was in 1981.

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.