Dallas County Mops Up Records Building Washout

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    Crews working to remove water from basement, subbasement.

    A flood at the Dallas County Records Building is causing big problems for several North Texas law enforcement agencies.

    After 6 feet of water flooded the basement and subbasement of the courthouse, computers critical to the Dallas County Sheriff's Department were shut down.

    The system assists with processing inmates and are also used by dispatchers, who are now unable access records allowing them to run criminal background checks during traffic stops.

    In addition, other law enforcement agencies requesting information, such as verification of arrest records from Dallas County, are being told there will be delays.

    Dallas County Records Building Floods

    [DFW] Dallas County Records Building Floods
    Crews working to remove water from basement, subbasement.

    Authorities booked inmates the old-fashioned way Tuesday, and the court system was partially shut down because of the water main break. Inmates were being processed manually but without any major delays or backlogs, said Dallas County sheriff's spokeswoman Kim Leach.

    "We're doing a lot of stuff the old-fashioned way," Sheriff Lupe Valdez said. "Instead of putting it in computers, we're using radio and telephone to get the things we need. It takes a little longer."

    About half of the civil courts and a third of the criminal courts couldn't operate, said , said Virginia Etherly, chief deputy of the district clerk's office.

    "I don't know that it would be categorized as a catastrophe, but certainly it has a major impact on our day-to-day operations," Etherly said.

    Leach said officials hope to have things running normally again within 72 hours.

    Commissioners said most of the system should be back up by Wednesday afternoon. County officials said they hope to have all the computer functions running again Thursday. Once the computers are restored, the information being processed by hand will have to be input into county computers.

    Officials said they are trying to assess damage to records, but workers must first pump all the water out of the downtown facility.

    "The cleanup will persist 24 hours through the night, and we will continue to move in that direction," Commissioner John Wiley Price said.

    The Flood

    Between 10 and 10:30 p.m., officials were notified that the basement and subbasement at 509 Main Street was taking on water, said Robert de los Santos, Dallas County fire marshal. Work crews found and removed a broken 8-inch pipe early Tuesday morning that caused the flooding.
    De los Santos said the next step was to begin cleanup. He said crews were going to use pumps to extract the water so that a true damage assessment can be done.  He added that the building, as expected, will be closed Tuesday.
    The building houses some of the county's oldest records, such as deeds to properties. The extent of the damage was initially unclear.

    Price said the county should have mapped out a backup computer plan.

    "We dropped the ball and Father Time didn't wait on us," he said. "Neither did Mother Nature, so between the earth and the old infrastructure, they sent us a message."

    NBC DFW's Omar Villafranca contributed to this report.