More than half a century ago, New York City felt the increasing effects of drought, which lasted throughout 1949 and into 1950. By February, the desperate city had to try something different. Mayor William O'Dwyer hired a municipal rainmaker. Dr. Wallace E. Howell was an inspired choice. The handsome, 35-year-old Harvard-educated meteorologist was the ideal scientist—soft-spoken, modest and articulate. No fast-talking prairie huckster, he took credit for nothing he couldn't prove with sound empirical data. Howell's meticulous nature often baffled jaded New Yorkers.
Over the next year, his leadership of a small ground and air armada, and his unprecedented scientific campaign to replenish the city's Catskills reservoirs, captured the imagination of the world. New York's cloud-seeding and rainmaking efforts would remain the stuff of legends—and controversy—for decades.This is the first in-depth look at New York City's only official rainmaker—an unintentional celebrity, dedicated scientist and climate entrepreneur, whose activities stirred up controversy among government officials, meteorologists, theologians, farmers and resort owners alike.