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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, November 2, 2004

Students in library fled floodwaters

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By Mike Leidemann
Advertiser Staff Writer

Two dozen students alone in a closed Hamilton Library had to fight their way out of the building just minutes before their classroom was washed away Saturday evening.

The students, participants in a day-long session on library management that normally meets by video conference, had to retreat from a flooded hallway and knock out a ground-floor window to make their escape, said Andrew Wertheimer, an assistant professor of library and information science.

A first warning came in the form of a fire alarm at a time when water from an overflowing Manoa Stream was just lapping up the side of a loading dock on the other side of the building.

The students left the otherwise closed library, but returned after getting an all-clear signal from a campus security guard.

"When the alarm went off again, we knew something was wrong," Wertheimer said. "We started to leave, but the first wave came through the hall like a tsunami," he said.

Upstairs on the first floor, Scott Reinke, the only other library staff member in the building at the time, could see the water rushing by a stairwell and hear the students retreating.

"This is going to be bad," Reinke remembers thinking.

Looking at a sealed window, one student suddenly decided that was the only way out. He threw a stool through it and then, one-by-one, the students escaped through the broken glass.

Minutes later the water in the room was nearly eight feet high and walls started crashing down.