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No Permanent Damage After Flood At Washington State Archives

Clean-up efforts are underway at the Washington State Archives in Olympia after a newly-installed kitchen sink line caused a flood overnight.

Among the historic records that got wet: marriage and birth records from the late 1800s. But the damage could have been much worse.

In the bowels of the Archives, where the records are stored, blue tarps and sheets of clear plastic are protecting the records from dripping water.

“This is probably ground zero where it burst,” says State Archivist Steve Excell, pointing to where the water seeped through the floor of the staff kitchen into the archives below.

Rescued records are now sitting out on tables to dry.

Excell says a flood is an archivist’s nightmare. “The only thing worse is a fire so, no, this is not a good day.”

But even in a flood, Excell is a glass-half-full kind of guy. He says at least this didn’t happen on a weekend. That would have been a full-scale disaster.

"We got lucky," says Excell.

There's no permanent damage. Most of the affected archives got damp, but not soaked. Excell says the flood did turn the public reading room into a swimming pool and drying everything out will take several days.

The Archives is equipped with water monitor alarms, but not in the reading room where the majority of the flooding occurred.

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."