Flash Floods Drench University of Hawaii Library
Flash Floods Drench University of Hawaii LibraryFlash floods sent an eight-foot-high wall of water through the ground floor of the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Hamilton Library October 30, ripping out office walls and soaking 230,000 rare maps and aerial photographs, thousands of books and government documents, more than 100 computers, and the entire library and information science school.
The floods hit the Manoa Valley area in the early evening after 10 inches of rain fell in 24 hours and overflowed the Manoa Stream. Although the library was closed at the time, an LIS class of about a dozen students was in session on the ground floor, and the waters hit so fast they had to break a window to escape.
In a message on the Open Library/Information Science Education Forum discussion list, LIS Chair Rebecca Knuth wrote that “losses were horrendous” and described materials turning up as far as five blocks away. “It was an experience to see our files under cars, a computer smashed into a tree, a small table perfectly upright fifty yards away.”
Five days after the flood, more than 120 staff and volunteers were still in “triage stage,” doing all they could to save materials, Associate University Librarian Jean Ehrhorn told American Libraries. “Everyone is a bit heartbroken,” she said, but noted that they were grateful no one was injured. For now, everyone is focused on the immediate work of cleaning and freezing materials, as well as controlling humidity to prevent mold in the two-thirds of the building still without power. The building remains closed to the public, and officials have not yet begun to estimate the damage.
While the library had suffered leaks in the past, nothing on this scale has ever been seen, Ehrhorn said. In fact, such heavy rain has hit the area only twice in the past century, according to the November 2 Honolulu Advertiser. “We’ve had floods before, but this was double of anything we’ve ever had,” said George Arizumi, a resident since the 1940s.
Damage wasn’t limited to the library: The university’s biomedical science building suffered an extensive loss of equipment, specimens, and years of research, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin reported November 3. On campus, a total of 35 buildings were affected, but classes resumed November 4. Gov. Linda Lingle declared the Manoa Valley a state disaster area October 31.
Posted November 5, 2004.