FEMA grants Law Center
By Ken Fountain
Daily Cougar Staff
Officials from the Federal Emergency Management
Agency presented a grant of $21.4 million to the UH Law Center on Monday
for the restoration of the John O'Quinn Library, which was devastated by
the floodwaters of Tropical Storm Allison on June 8.
Pin Lim/The Daily Cougar
UH Law Center Dean Nancy
Rapoport holds a copy of The Law of the Sea, the first volume saved from
the John O'Quinn Law Library following Tropical Storm Allison. The library
received a $21.4 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency
Approximately 250,000 volumes, valued
at nearly $25 million, were destroyed when water rushed through the University's
utility tunnel system into the library's lowest
below-ground level. The 35,000-square-foot.
space was also completely ruined.
"The evening of June 8 is one that many
of us will long remember," UH President Arthur K. Smith said during a special
presentation ceremony in the Hendricks Heritage
Room of the Bates Law Building.
"During a period of three hours, from around
midnight to 3 a.m., I'm told more than 11 inches of rain fell in the area
of Braes Bayou from the Texas Medical Center down
here to the University of Houston," he
"I'm not a meteorologist, but I understand
that meteorologists say that 11 to 12 inches in three hours is about as
hard as the good Lord allows it to rain," Smith said.
Smith commended the combined efforts of
the UH community to get the University back into operation after just a
week and to reopen in August with the largest student
enrollment since 1992.
"So the story of the University's recovery
has been a remarkable one. The staff, the faculty, students and administrators
have pulled together in a way that I think is
unprecedented in the University of Houston's
history. Indeed, very few universities have ever been called on to deal
with a natural disaster of this complexity and this
magnitude," he said.
Smith noted that the University has expected
its insurance carriers and governmental agencies (such as FEMA) to eventually
provide funds to offset the estimated $95
million in losses to the University.
"And today, we are marking a happy occasion
when a large chunk of that money will indeed flow," he said.
He said that as the repairs proceed, the
University is working "to ensure that a disaster of this magnitude will
never affect (UH) to this degree again."
To that end, he said, the future collections
of the law library will be protected "to the fullest extent possible in
an aboveground location. Because it does rain."
Smith introduced Scott Wells, the FEMA
coordinating officer who has been based in Houston since June (during which
time he met and married a woman from Texas).
Wells noted that 120,000 families were
victims of the storm, which he said was the largest disaster in Texas history.
"But as the saying goes, 'don't mess with Texas.'
You guys recovered on your own.
"Much work has been done, but we still
have a long way to go," Wells said, noting that of $120 million in federal
funds going to all the school systems in the Houston
area, $85 million is going to UH alone.
Wells said the $21.4 million grant to the
Law Center put the total amount of relief funds provided by federal and
state agencies at more than $1 billion. "That's an
incredibly large amount of money in an
incredibly short period of time."
Smith later presented Law Center Dean Nancy
Rapoport with a copy of an old maritime law book called The Law of the
Sea, the first book recovered from the library
after the flood, as a symbolic replacement
of the library's lost collections.
"I'm glad to see this book back where it
belongs," Rapoport said.
"In this room are some personal heroes
of mine. Let me tell you, June 8 was quite the day. But seeing what people
have done since then to bring us back, and to see
how closely we worked together for a common
goal, that means the world to me.
"The disaster happened. But that's not
the story. The story is the love that people brought to this and the commitment
they brought to our recovery," she said.