On Sept. 25, Al Roker, author of “The Storm of the Century” and Oswego State graduate of ’76, came to campus. Roker arrived after his morning news cast on NBC’s “Today” to talk about his new book.
In this historic book, readers will be taken to Galveston, Texas. Meet a young man named Isaac Cline, the best meteorologist in the country at the time, and will learn what happened the night of Sept. 8, 1900, to not only him and his family, but to more than 10,000 other people when the Great Gulf Hurricane of 1900 hit.
Al Roker had a lot to say about this tragedy. When asked why he chose this incident, Roker told the audience he wanted it to be known. He feels it has a certain importance to the United States.
Roker explains that if Willis Moore, a bureaucrat, had not refused a storm warning, the number of deaths would have been a fraction of the deaths caused by Moore’s reckless decision. Moore made this decision because he believed the storm warning would have caused public panic.
As Roker said, Moore wanted to “let people feel happy” he did not let words like “blizzard” or “tsunami” reach the people. Moore felt that local weather stations were scaring the populace. The U.S. had been cut off from any information about severe weather.
The people of Galveston never believed they could be hit by something so resilient. Roker talks about the 200 mph winds and 15 to 30 feet waves that struck the city at the beginning of the book.
“They were playing in the water, but then it just kept coming and coming,” even still the winds got stronger. Roker said that Isaac knew that a storm was going to hit six hours beforehand. At that point, there was nothing he could do. What was left of Galveston after that night was “hell on Earth.”
Roker explained he built connections with the characters and became attached. They were also real people who experienced the tragedy. After finishing the book, Roker felt like he had lost friends. It pained him that this had happened to them.
“I feel that we did them justice by bringing their stories back to life,” Roker said. When asked if another tragedy like Galveston could happen again, Roker answered that the damage could probably be just as bad, but we could have more warning. People would know when to or if they had to evacuate. We have more technology today to prevent a disaster like this to happen again.
Al Roker is proud of this book. He feels it speaks to the human spirit and for itself. He’s honored that he was able to be the one to tell about the night of the storm of the century.
After speaking about the book, Al Roker sat down with Molly Matott, an alumnus of ‘15. Matott is a young meteorologist at CNY Central. Matott explained while reading the book, she felt like she was there during the storm. It was easy for her to relate to the novel due to the descriptive content.
“It gives you an empathetic feel,” Matott said.
Al Roker explained to Matott, while writing the book it wasn’t his firsthand experience with hurricanes that helped him; it was the research he had. To read what the people of Galveston experienced firsthand, you didn’t need to experience it to know how horrific it was.
At the end of the event, individuals in the audience had the chance to ask Roker some questions. Roker gave advice to students pursuing broadcasting,“Leave yourself open to anything,” he said. “You never know what is going to happen.”
According to Freshman Andre Nichols the book was intriguing, entertaining and engaging. “There were many powerful, [and] emotional moments,” Nichols said. The book included several developed characters. Freshman Beck Donnelly also enjoyed the event.
“Al was really funny,” Donnelly said. ”I felt like I could really relate because of my experience with hurricane Sandy.”