County Birth And Death Records Wet After Flood At Washington State Archives

By Austin Jenkins

It’s wet-vacs, dehumidifiers and lots of drying tables after a flood at the Washington State Archives. The cause of the flood Thursday night was a newly installed kitchen sink line. Among the historic records that got wet: marriage and birth records from the late 1800s . But the damage could have been much worse.

Blue tarps protect historic records from flood waters dripping down from above at the Washington State Archives in Olympia. Credit Austin Jenkins.Outside the State Archives a giant vacuum truck revs up. In the bowels of the Archives where the records are stored it’s blue tarps and sheets of clear plastic.

Steve Excell: “This is probably ground zero where it burst.”

State Archivist Steve Excell points to where the water seeped through the floor of the staff kitchen into the archives below.

Steve Excell: “See the water dripping down here? It’s still coming in.”

Rescued records sit out to dry on tables.

Steve Excell: “Here’s Lewis County register of births.”

Excell says a flood is an archivist’s nightmare. He says "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.

Steve Excell: “Be much worse, but we got lucky.”

No permanent damage. Most of the affected archives got damp, but not soaked. Excel says the flood did turn the public reading room into a swimming pool. Drying everything out will take several days.

Photo: Blue tarps protect historic records from flood waters dripping down from above at the Washington State Archives in Olympia. Credit Austin Jenkins.

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