A Secret Service agent rides his bike by the White House on April 7 during widespread power outages across Washington.

A Secret Service agent rides his bike by the White House on April 7 during widespread power outages across Washington. Susan Walsh/Associated Press

Widespread Power Outages Send Some Washington-Area Feds Home

OPM offers its non-essential workers early dismissal during outage that has affected agencies in the region.

This story has been updated. 

The Office of Personnel Management sent home the agency’s non-essential employees on Tuesday afternoon because of an unexpected power outage that hit the Washington, D.C., region.

OPM’s headquarters at the Theodore Roosevelt federal building in Washington lost power as did several other agencies in the downtown area, including the White House and State Department. According to The Washington Post, the White House, State and other agencies with a “critical operations center” were operating on emergency backup power as of about 1:30 p.m.

“Our facilities team is working as quickly as possible to restore power,” said an OPM spokesperson. “Out of caution, non-essential OPM employees have been allowed an early dismissal.”

OPM also directed all federal employees in the Washington area to “take guidance from their individual agencies, based on the situation at each workplace.”

The Capitol building lost power as well and the Smithsonian museums, including Air and Space and the National Portrait Gallery, were evacuated.

Historian Terry Alford was about to field audience questions about his new biography of John Wilkes Booth when the power shut down at about 12:30 p.m. at the National Archives and Records Administration's main building. He continued speaking without the benefit of a microphone or C-SPAN’s camera, until 1 p.m. Fifteen minutes later, security guards instructed all visitors to exit the building, and staffers still had no inkling of what had caused the outage. 

The Post reported that the power outage may be related to an explosion at an electrical facility in southern Maryland, which affected the power grid in the area. 

A spokesman for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority said at 1:55 p.m. that the rail system was working, but that 13 stations were operating on emergency backup power, which means dimmer lighting and some escalator and elevator outages.

Charles S. Clark contributed to this story.