At least the data center stayed high and dry

Flashback to the 1980s, when this pilot fish is working for a local bank with an old-fashioned two-story lobby -- and its own mainframe upstairs.

"In the data center on the third floor, above the branch, we had a leased IBM 3081 water-cooled mainframe," says fish. "This meant installing a major set of chiller units on the roof of the building, and piping directly under the raised floor."

Just one problem: The combination of equipment, plumbing and IT operations staff would have exceeded the load that the floor of the old building was designed for.

To save weight, engineers decided to use PVC plastic pipes instead of the recommended metal to carry the chilled water. They ran the PVC piping below all the power and intercommunication cables that were already hanging underneath the raised floor.

So it's just a matter of time before a facilities tech who's running more power cables happens to slip and step directly on one of the PVC pipes, which creates a crack.

Suddenly there's water very close to some very hot power lines.

The facilities guy knows the cooling water system can't be shut down, but he quickly pulls off his shirt and tries stuffing it into the pipe to try to stop the water flow.

And that might have worked -- except then he decides to use a nearby 2x4 to tamp his shirt into the crack.

Suddenly there's a geyser in the middle of the computer room.

"Fortunately, someone in the past -- we never found out who or why -- had drilled three-inch relief holes in the floor through six inches of concrete slab," fish says. "That kept the water away from all the cables.

"Unfortunately, the branch had to be closed due to inclement weather from all the water coming from the computer room."

Keep Sharky swimming in stories. Send me your true tale of IT life at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll snag a snazzy Shark shirt if I use it. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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