A devastating flash flood, which overflowed the banks of Mānoa Stream on October 30, 2004, caused an estimated 80 million dollars of damage to 32 buildings on University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa campus. Fortunately, no one was injured during the catastrophe.

Water rushed through the campus and Hamilton Library was by far the hardest hit, accounting for almost half of the damage costs, according to then UH President David McClain.

Hamilton Library stacks after the October 30, 2004 flood.

Hundreds of thousands of historical maps, aerial photographs and government documents along with numerous computers and servers were damaged or destroyed after water, up to eight feet deep, flooded the library’s ground floor. The floodwaters broke through walls, toppled bookshelves and overturned furniture.

Ten years later, Hamilton Library has not only rebounded—its thriving.

“The ability to redesign from start, the basement level has been of a great advantage to us to make it a modern library,” said UH Mānoa University Librarian Irene Herold.

The valuable lessons learned regarding storing and protecting data and the school’s computer network was a key factor in the construction of the university’s state-of-the-art Information Technology Center, which opened in February 2014. Currently, much of the UH Mānoa Library data is now stored there.

Hamilton Library also underwent renovations to prevent future flooding and the library’s preservation department is now nationally known for restoring the thousands of flood-damaged maps, books and other items.

“They are actually sought as consultants for regional FEMA disasters,” said Herold.

On the 10th anniversary of the flood, library staff, UH administrators, lawmakers and others reflected on what was accomplished after the flood.

“This is not something that was fixed in a week, or in three months, or in even two or three years,” said UH President Emeritus McClain. “This is something that took a long time to fix.”

The recovery effort began immediately—the day after the flood—as soon as word got out. Volunteers from the campus and community joined library staff and students to retrieve and clean damaged items.

“You could not help but be struck by the number of people from the library, the campus community, the other campuses of the UH System and the community who came in to try to help,” said UH President David Lassner.

Hawaiʻi’s congressional delegation, led by the late Senator Dan Inouye, secured federal funding, the governor and state lawmakers allocated state funds and private citizens made contributions while libraries from around the world donated materials to replace destroyed items.

“Everybody recognized the severity of this disaster,” said McClain. “I think, perhaps at the time, it might have been the most severe disaster to have befallen a college campus.”

Thanks to the efforts of so many, Hamilton Library is still fulfilling its mission to support the learning, research and information needs of students, faculty, staff and the community. The library provides access to a world of knowledge and is preserving Hawaiʻi’s local cultural heritage for future generations.

“It’s important that we commemorate and remember, and that we appreciate and value those that contributed to the recovery to date,” said Herold.

hamilton library

View photos on the University of Hawaiʻi Flickr site.