Ruthless Tide: The Heroes and Villains of the Johnstown Flood, America's Astonishing Gilded Age Disaster

Ruthless Tide: The Heroes and Villains of the Johnstown Flood, America's Astonishing Gilded Age Disaster

by Al Roker

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Overview

Reads like a nail-biting thriller.” — Library Journal, starred review

A gripping new history celebrating the remarkable heroes of the Johnstown Flood—the deadliest flood in U.S. history—from NBC host and legendary weather authority Al Roker

Central Pennsylvania, May 31, 1889: After a deluge of rain—nearly a foot in less than twenty-four hours—swelled the Little Conemaugh River, panicked engineers watched helplessly as swiftly rising waters threatened to breach the South Fork dam, built to create a private lake for a fishing and hunting club that counted among its members Andrew Mellon, Henry Clay Frick, and Andrew Carnegie. Though the engineers telegraphed neighboring towns on this last morning in May warning of the impending danger, residents—factory workers and their families—remained in their homes, having grown used to false alarms.

At 3:10 P.M., the dam gave way, releasing 20 million tons of water. Gathering speed as it flowed southwest, the deluge wiped out nearly everything in its path and picked up debris—trees, houses, animals—before reaching Johnstown, a vibrant steel town fourteen miles downstream. Traveling 40 miles an hour, with swells as high as 60 feet, the deadly floodwaters razed the mill town—home to 20,000 people—in minutes. The Great Flood, as it would come to be called, remains the deadliest in US history, killing more than 2,200 people and causing $17 million in damage.

In Ruthless Tide, Al Roker follows an unforgettable cast of characters whose fates converged because of that tragic day, including John Parke, the engineer whose heroic efforts failed to save the dam; the robber barons whose fancy sport fishing resort was responsible for modifications that weakened the dam; and Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross, who spent five months in Johnstown leading one of the first organized disaster relief efforts in the United States. Weaving together their stories and those of many ordinary citizens whose lives were forever altered by the event, Ruthless Tide is testament to the power of the human spirit in times of tragedy and also a timely warning about the dangers of greed, inequality, neglected infrastructure, and the ferocious, uncontrollable power of nature.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062445537
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 04/16/2019
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 265,444
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Al Roker is cohost of NBC’s Today. He has received thirteen Emmy Awards, ten for his work on Today. He is the author of The Storm of the Century, an acclaimed history of the 1900 Galveston hurricane. He lives in Manhattan with his wife, ABC News and 20/20 correspondent Deborah Roberts, and has two daughters and a son.

Table of Contents

Map: "Bird's-Eye View of the Conemaugh Valley" viii

Prologue: "Mr. Quinn Is Too Fearful" 1

Part I Members and Novembers

1 Up on the Mountain 21

2 Down in the Valley 41

3 How to Make a Lake 65

4 "No Danger from Our Enterprise" 83

5 Rain 99

Part II When the Dam Broke

6 Tap-Tap-Tap 117

7 A Monster Unchained 131

8 Cauldron 145

9 The Night of the Johnstown Flood 163

10 Alone in the World 177

Part III Justice and Charity

11 Some Convulsion 197

12 Poor, Lone Woman 217

13 Frozen with Fear 235

14 Strict Liability 247

Epilogue: Song and Story 263

Acknowledgments 279

A Note on Sources and Further Reading 281

Bibliography 285

Index 293

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Ruthless Tide: The Heroes and Villains of the Johnstown Flood, America's Astonishing Gilded Age Disaster (Signed Book) 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not a fan of AL Roger but this book was excellent well researched. Well written. An excellent read for everyone a piece of history that Ned's to be remembered for the greed, the tragedy, and the lessons learned and the changes that resulted from this horrific preventable episode.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I couldn't put the book down. I learned about history I never knew existed. What our ancestors went through and their bravery
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Was excited to read a book about the Johnstown flood. Couldn't make it past the prologue. It reads like it was written by a high schooler the night before his essay is due. Taking it back to the store and buying David McCullough's book.