Question: Who is the intended audience?
Answer: Anyone interested generally in American history and weather disasters, or specifically in floods and Delaware River Valley regional topics.
Q: What is the book about?
A: This book is the only comprehensive history of the record-setting flood caused by hurricanes Connie and Diane on August 18-20, 1955 on both sides of the Delaware River and its tributaries from Port Jervis, NY to Trenton, NJ and including the Scranton area and the Pocono Mountains. It covers the lead-up to the event that killed almost 100 people, including contemporary weather forecasting technology of the era, the worst drought in 30 years that was broken by the flood, and follows dozens of individuals and families who were affected. More than 100 survivors were interviewed to bring the story to life with factual accuracy not available at the time of the disaster.
Q: Why are you the best person to write this book?
A: I‘m a full time freelance writer with two other published books to my credit, both American history titles. My credentials include a position as volunteer weather coordinator for my township’s emergency management agency.
It’s my job to monitor flood levels on the river (we’ve had three in the past 4 years) and sometimes to help evacuate threatened residents. I’m also a certified SkyWarn Weather Spotter who helps identify and report severe weather to the National Weather Service to help them track threatening storms and warn the public.
I’ve lived two miles off the Delaware River for almost a decade, and grew up along the Juniata River 3 hours west of here, so I understand river people and why they remain in the floodplain when they know the dangers.
I was frankly surprised no one found this story of sufficient interest to write about before I did, but once I began what became 3 years of complex research, I understood. I’m a member of the Bucks County Historical Society, the Pennsylvania Heritage Society, and several national historic interest groups, as well as a founding member of the currently forming Nockamixon Township Historic Commission.
I minored in history in college, while my degree is in communications. I am a dyed-in-the-wool weather wonk, and am the founder of the Amateur Weather Enthusiasts of America (AWE-USA).
Q: How is this book different from other books on this topic?
A: This is truly the only book that focuses on how these two hurricanes affected the Delaware River watershed, although there was one book — Flood by NYT reporter David Dempsey — that was rushed to print a year after the flood.
That book peripherally covered the worst-hit area of our watershed, but focused primarily on the worse destruction in New England from the same storms. And frankly — though it wasn’t his fault, but a reflection of the limitation of available information at the time — Mr. Dempsey’s book is riddled with inaccuracies. Aside from that, Devastation was written in the narrative nonfiction format, using fictional techniques such as character development, dialogue and a beginning-to-end storyline. I used this approach to make the subject not only accessible, but eminently readable. The most frequent comment I get from readers is, “It reads just like a thriller! I couldn’t put it down!” (see http://www.55flood.com/readercomments.html)
Q: Is there anything else we should know about this book?
A: As I was finishing the research for the book (September 2004), we had a large flood on the river from Hurricane Ivan, which was an interesting thing to experience as an author in the midst of writing about that very subject. Our EMA was activated, so I got to see part of what it may have been like in ‘55. Two months later, as I was writing about the church camp that got washed away in ‘55, my mother died very suddenly and unexpectedly. Though that event absolutely knocked me down, I think it helped me write a more sensitive treatment of this tragedy that killed more than 40 people (including many very old and very young people — 2 years to 76 years). As I was finishing the manuscript, we had another huge flood in April 0f 2005, which pushed me two weeks off schedule, because the EMA was activated again.
The book finally came out just past the 50th anniversary of the ‘55 disaster, in early October of 2005. Hurricane Katrina had hit a month earlier, and hurricane-caused flooding was still very much in the news. All I had to do was show up, and I sold my entire first printing (2500 copies) in 42 days. We had a third devastating flood in June of 2006, just 7 feet below the ‘55 record-setter, and once again, sales surged. I’m now halfway through the second printing. Since the book first came out, with all this other activity, many folks have come forth with stories from 1955, and I plan on updating the book probably around the end of the decade to come out with a revised edition.
The book has won 3 awards, several high-profile positive reviews, and dozens (maybe more than 100 by now) of inches of press coverage.
Devastation on the Delaware, the first comprehensive documentary book of the deadly flood of August, 1955, is now in its second printing! Find out why the first one sold out in 42 days, and why it has won three publishing industry awards! Check it out at http://www.55flood.com.