In this case, however, simply querying Alexa results in Echo devices displaying a red LED light ring, after which she responds, "Sorry, I'm have a little trouble understanding right now. Please try a little later." This was the response I heard when calling upon my own Echo Dot at 2:50pm EST. I had asked Alexa to answer a question for me around 2:00pm EST, and all was well.
My recent Alexa troubles could stem from the fact that affected areas on the outage map for Alexa services is actually growing at this point. DownDetector shows much of the east and west coasts in the "red", indicating service disruptions. If you rely on Alexa for controlling your smart home (i.e., light bulbs, thermostats, fans, appliances, etc.), you're out of luck until Amazon can resolve this outage. The same goes for just about anything else you would use Alexa for.
The root cause of the outages seems to have stemmed from a power failure in a Northern Virginian network facility. Afterwards, there were a cascading series of failures. "We are investigating increased packet loss possibly impacting some AWS Direct Connect customers in the US-East-1 Region," read the status page for the Amazon Web Services division earlier this afternoon.