America’s Favorite Weatherman Discusses His New Book and Top NYC Excursions—Both Rain & Shine

America’s Favorite Weatherman Discusses His New Book and Top NYC Excursions—Both Rain & Shine

Decked out in a sharp suit and bicycle helmet, Al Roker rides his Brompton bike through the streets of Midtown, Manhattan on a breezy Wednesday afternoon. His destination? The Bryant Park Reading Room. His reason? To share details of his new book—“The Storm of the Century: Tragedy, Heroism, Survival, and the Epic True Story of America's Deadliest Natural Disaster: The Great Gulf Hurricane of 1900”—with an eager crowd of history buffs, bookworms, and individuals who wanted a chance to see the NBC vet up close and personal.

Each morning for nearly two decades, Al Roker has let us in on Mother Nature’s mood—whether it will rain, shine or do something in between—from his prominent post as the weather forecaster on NBC’s Today Show. So, it is pretty fitting that the topic of his new book would center on a storm, specifically the greatest natural disaster to hit American soil: The Great Gulf Hurricane of 1900.

Roker got the idea for the book more than a year ago when researching the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. He wanted to know where this 2005 tropical cyclone, which affected so many lives, fell on the spectrum of natural disasters in this country and stumbled upon the Great Gulf Hurricane. Because the average person in America has never heard of this early 20th-century event, of course it would make for an interesting book.

“Paris of the South”
The hurricane took place in Galveston, Texas—a booming city of industry by the year 1900 that, at the time, was home to more billionaires than anywhere else in the country. The “Paris of the South” also boasted the largest weather bureau outside of Washington, DC. But, on September 8, 1900, that all changed. Cuba knew a major hurricane was moving through the Caribbean and would take aim at Galveston—but the U.S. Weather Bureau never disseminated this information. The result? The loss of an estimated 10,000 lives.

Roker presents this tragic story as one of resilience, a story of human survival and the will to live. Taking an anecdotal approach, his new book highlights the individual stories of several people who lived through the event.

During the Q&A portion of the discussion, questions from the audience range from serious queries about government regulations and their impact on the environment to if plans are underway to turn the book into a movie.

I speak with the authoritative, fatherly weatherman after the event. We talk about his love for his job—he still gets a kick out of the signs people display outside of NBC’s Rockefeller Center studio every morning—and of course, his favorite things to do in NYC.

The Perfect Day in NYC
If the day calls for sunny skies, his afternoon of family fun would include a trip to the Statue of Liberty. Then, he would take his kids on a long bike ride from Battery Park to the Little Red Lighthouse, officially known as Jeffrey's Hook Light, in Fort Washington Park for a “great view of the city.” If the forecast calls for rain, the devoted dad would take his kids to some of the city’s lesser-known museums, including the Studio Museum of Harlem, the New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn—because his father was a bus driver, he explains—the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side and the new Whitney in the Meatpacking District.

After speaking with Roker about his favorite places, I take the opportunity to sneak in a follow-up question that’s been on my mind since earlier during the audience Q&A: When asked if the book would become a movie, he answered that there are no plans in the works, but he is open to it. Now, I know Roker is first and foremost a weather forecaster, but he does have a pretty extensive list of acting credits to his name—at least according to his IMDb profile, which lists most characters as “Al Roker.” With this knowledge in my back pocket, I ask if he would cast himself in the movie if it ever comes to light. The question is met with a chuckle. I prod a bit harder, mentioning he does have some pretty decent acting chops. After the briefest of pauses, and with the slightest of smirks, a man who a lot of us grew up watching every morning humbly responds with an ambiguous reply, “well, for 30 seconds, I’m as good as Denzel Washington.”

For more on Roker’s new book, click here. 

Photo: Eric Ray Davidson, courtesy of NBC


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