Cornell University Press

Playing Politics with Hurricane Agnes

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With a particular focus on events in New York and Pennsylvania, Timothy W. Kneeland narrates how local, state, and federal authorities responded to the immediate crisis of Hurricane Agnes and managed the long-term recovery. Her’s our Q&A with the author of Playing Politics with Natural Disaster: Hurricane Agnes, the 1972 Election, and the Origins of FEMA.

1. What’s your favorite anecdote from your research for this book?

The true, but incredible, stories of Representative Daniel J. Flood, whose longevity in the House and his work as a powerful subcommittee Chair on Appropriations gave him enormous influence over the Department of Defense which he used to assist Wilkes-Barre in the aftermath of the 1972 flood. Dan Flood was a character, a former Shakespearian actor who loved to orate on the floor of the House, he often wore white suits and at times donned a cape. Flood lost power in the aftermath of the flood spawned by Hurricane Agnes due to a bribery scandal and the move by a new generation of Democrats post-Watergate to strip away the power and privilege of seniority. 

2. What do you wish you had known when you started writing your book, that you know now?

The fragmentary nature of congressional materials. I was fortunate that Daniel J. Flood, Howard Robison, Joseph McDade, and James F. Hastings left their material to academic libraries, although what they chose to donate was often uneven and some collections were more robust than others.   

3. How do you wish you could change the field of Political Science?

I would remind my colleagues that disasters may have national implications but they are local events. Individuals and interest groups in local areas have tremendous power in determining how post-disaster relief is allocated and designated how it is used in local communities.

*Featured photo by reza shayestehpour.


Timothy W. Kneeland is Professor and Chair of History and Political Science at Nazareth College in Rochester, New York, and the author of several other books, including Pushbutton PsychiatryToday’s Social Issues, and Buffalo Blizzard of 1977.

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