Most of us are familiar with Al Roker from his television work on NBC’s "Today" program, as well as “Wake Up With Al” on the Weather Channel. But he is also an acclaimed author who has penned several best-selling books. This week we received his latest: Ruthless Tide: The Heroes and Villains of the Johnstown Flood, America’s Astonishing Gilded Age Disaster.
This book tells of the tragic flood that occurred in 1889 in Central Pennsylvania, killing more than 2200 people and causing over 17 million dollars in damage. A heavy deluge caused the Little Conemaugh River to swell and threaten the South Fork dam, which had been built to create a private fishing and hunting club for its wealthy members including Andrew Mellon, Henry Clay Frick, and Andrew Carnegie. When the dam gave way, it released 20 million tons of water, which wiped out everything in its way. It reached the city of Johnstown with sixty feet swells of water and completely demolished the city within minutes. Attempts had been made to warn the residents, but they were so used to false alarms that most remained in their homes and perished.
Roker tells how the greed of the robber barons caused the weakening of the dam, which played a great part in the disaster. He also tells of the engineer who made heroic efforts to save the dam, but ultimately failed. And of Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross, who spent five months in Johnstown leading one of the first organized disaster relief operations in our country. He also shares the stories of the ordinary citizens whose lives were forever affected by this event.
This book can be found in the non-fiction section of the library in Dewey number 974.