This week, Houston received near-record levels of rainfall (over 13 inches on Monday), resulting in floods that destroyed millions of dollars of property and even took the lives of several residents. Heavy rain is not unusual for Houston, but this type of flooding is far from ordinary. By some accounts, this week’s storms are the most damaging since the city weathered Tropical Storm Allison in June 2001. Though the recent storms did not negatively impact the Law Center and the University of Houston main campus, this was not the case in 2001.
Tropical Storm Allison dropped nearly 37 inches of rain within a 24 hour period, leaving behind five billion dollars in damage. On June 8, 2001 the O’Quinn Law Library’s underground floors were flooded when the campus’s underground tunnels, which connect utilities throughout U of H, overflowed and filled the library with eight to twelve feet of water. Over 170,000 print volumes were destroyed, and some irreplaceable materials were lost forever. The materials lost to the water included the library’s famed admiralty collection and the Judge R. Brown papers. Damages were estimated at $30 million, though some of the materials lost were truly priceless.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) approved $21.4 million for the restoration of the collection. The funds separated into two projects, one for microfiche replacement, and the other for monograph replacement. Replacing a collection under the strictures of FEMA-awarded funds was no simple task, and took years to complete. The replacement effort continued until 2007, when the library completed its restoration, rebuilding, and remodeling. Library books and materials have never again been stored in the building’s lower lever; the space now accommodates student organizations. Visitors to the O’Quinn Law Library today can see photos of the storm’s aftermath, an unbelievable high-water mark, but most importantly- a world class law library.
We are thankful that in the wake of this week’s storms our campus, library, and community members were largely unharmed. We send our condolences and sympathies to those whose lives and property have been affected by the storms, and wish them strength as they begin on the road to rebuilding.