Wash. data center crash just now coming to light

Sep 6, 2011

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.