How an Electrical Storm in Virginia Brought Down a Large Chunk of the Internet, Including Instagram

By Molly Oswaks on at

Late last night, a severe electrical storm struck over Northern Virginia, Maryland and DC, halting train traffic and felling trees. Sites and apps such as Pinterest and Instagram were affected, but sadly six people died, too.

The Washington Post liveblogged the severe electrical storm, reporting at 11:27pm:

"[W]ind gusts of nearly 80 mph have just blown through the D.C.-Baltimore region. We're getting lots of reports of power outages and some damage (Exactly how much is unclear). Metro reports that they have no power at some stations. They have sent trains back to origin points because of the weather."

Virginia Governor Bob MacDonnell has blamed the storm for the deaths of six people in that state, as well as widespread regional power outages.

Bad news for the State of Virginia… and also for the Internet.

How an Electrical Storm in Virginia Brought Down a Large Chunk of the Internet


Bringing Down the Cloud

Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud, or EC2, a web service that provides resizable compute capacity in the cloud (basically, it acts as a host for certain websites traffic and data), is comprised of several Regions and Availability Zones—one of which, "US East," just so happens to be located in Northern Virginia.

When the storm hit Virginia, EC2 US East lost power, bringing down its certain of its clients—namely: Netflix, Instagram, Pinterest, and SocialFlow (the web service Giz uses to tweet stories and post links to Facebook). This should not have happened: Amazon's EC2 Service Level Agreement states a service commitment of 99.95 per cent uptime during the service year. And it's not the first—or worst—time.

Netflix and the others appear to all have been restored as this point, and Instagram fans couldn't be more pleased—or more eager to cash in on an opportunistic joke.

Image via szpeti/Shutterstock