California DMV Blames ‘Perfect Storm’ Of Computer Failures For Outage

ROSEVILLE, Calif. (CBS/AP) – A “perfect storm” of simultaneous hard-drive failures caused a computer outage that crippled two-thirds of California Department of Motor Vehicles offices this week, DMV officials said Wednesday.

The department’s disaster recovery systems were not designed to handle such severe failures over a short period of time, DMV spokesman Jaime Garza said in an email.

He said experts were working to repair the system and get office functions back online, but he did not provide an estimate for completing the work.

DMV officials have said the computers were not hacked or targeted. It was not immediately clear what caused the disks to fail.

“Industry experts would characterize the events experienced in the DMV system, over the past few days, as ‘the perfect storm,’ and this is a series of events that the department has not previously witnessed,” Garza said.

More than 100 field offices remained hampered by the outage, unable to process vehicle registrations and, in most cases, driver’s license matters.

Offices affected by the outage in the region include Sacramento, Stockton, South Lake Tahoe, Auburn, Carmichael, Roseville, Woodland, Yuba City, Manteca, Jackson, Vacaville, Turlock, Sonora, Modesto, Folsom and Fairfield.

The offices did provide road tests for drivers and scheduled appointments for people unable to accomplish their DMV business. Online services were still functioning.

At the Roseville DMV office, people were lined up well before the office opened because the DMV said things would be back to normal on Wednesday. Many were upset that systems were not working when the doors opened.

Kennidi Beatie was making his third frustrating trip to a DMV office since her car was broken into and her purse – and driver’s license – were stolen at a restaurant. With no identification, she said she can’t get into her bank accounts.

She was at the Folsom DMV office on Monday an hour before it opened, only to be thwarted by the computer meltdown.

“I sat there for five hours hoping they might be open,” said the Sacramento woman. “DMV’s, like, broken. Is that real? I’m like, ooooh, is this happening? This is my life.”

She went back to Folsom again on Tuesday and on Wednesday tried the Roseville office.

Garza said 122 of the DMV’s 188 offices that serve the public were affected. Twenty-one were fully functional by Wednesday and services were partially restored at 16 others.

While the latest outage began Monday, some offices also had trouble Friday because of a scheduled security upgrade, Garza said.

Lisa Harris’ husband attempted to update the couple’s vehicle registration twice, on Friday and Monday, without success as the family tries to avoid a steeper penalty that they expect will top $100.

They recently moved, and the registration due in August went to their old address. Lisa Harris left the Roseville DMV office Wednesday after failing a third time.

“Very, very frustrating,” she said, criticizing the DMV’s lack of communication about when the computers would be working again. “It’s a guessing game and then they’re not telling anyone and you’re standing in line, so it’s just frustrating.”

Customers facing late fees as a result of the outage can fill out a form or write a letter requesting that the fee be waived, Garza said.

(TM and © Copyright 2010 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or Redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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