F5: a book review

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:28 PM GMT on June 13, 2007

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F5: Devastation, Survival, and the Most Violent Tornado Outbreak of the 20th Century tells a story from the world's most violent tornado outbreak on record--the April 4, 1974 Super Outbreak. The Super Outbreak featured the most tornadoes ever recorded in a single day, 148, and also had an unprecedented number of violent F4 and F5 tornadoes--six F5 tornadoes and 24 F4 tornadoes (for comparison, the past five years have had one F5 tornado and 15 F4 tornadoes.)

The book has some excellent material discussing the "how" of tornado formation, plus an entire chapter on the life and pioneering research done by tornado researcher Dr. Theodore Fujita (Dr. Tornado). Author Mark Levine definitely did his homework, talking to many of the leading tornado researchers while writing the book. However, F5 is primarily focused on the people who lived in Limestone County, Alabama--a rural area 20 miles west of Huntsville. We get an in-depth portrayal of the lives of about 30 residents affected by the tornado before, during, and after the storm. Many chapters are spent building up to the tornadoes, painting a detailed picture of what life was like in rural Alabama for these people in the early 1970s. Levine is a gifted writer, and for those interested in the human dimensions of this great tornado disaster, this book is for you. Also, readers who appreciate poetry (the author has written three books of poems, will enjoy Levine's flowery, wordy descriptions:

The fear instilled by tornadoes, and the fascination with them, is beyond rational accounting; they are the weather watcher's equivalent of charismatic megafauna. Their aura is not difficult to fathom. Descending suddenly, menacingly, and without reliable warning, the tornado serves as a near-primal expression of the mysterious and fraught relationship between individuals and the skies above them.

The book has some rather astounding "truth is stranger than fiction" passages. The eyewitness descriptions by the survivors of their horrifying moments flying through the roaring debris-filled air as a monstrous F-5 tornado rips through their homes are particularly riveting. The most amazing part about the events in Limestone County that night was that TWO violent tornadoes--an F4 and an F5--ripped through several hours apart, hitting some of the exact same places. Levine paints a harrowing and unforgettable picture of what it was like to live through the terror of the two tornadoes. Another excerpt:

What Jerry saw was strange and wondrous. Clouds were riding across open fields to the west, moving just like clouds do across the sky. As the clouds passed a steel TVA tower, it snapped out of the ground, and began rolling across the field. A moment later, a second tower was toppled. To Jerry, the scene resembled something out of a cartoon, with the 120-foot high girders skipping like tumbleweeds.


What I didn't like about the book
While F5 is well written and absolutely fascinating in sections, I thought the book was too verbose and took too long to get to the action. I found myself skipping over some sections. The book also introduced too many characters to follow, and I got confused about who was whom. One of my many character flaws is a disinterest in poetry, and I found that the dense, flowery, poetic language of Levine interfered with my desire to see the story moved forward and straightforward science to be presented. The tornadoes don't start their rampage through Limestone County until page 119 of this long, 276-page book, which was too long to wait for my impatient blood. If you want to read a fast-paced true-life tornado drama, pick up a copy of Nancy Mathis' excellent book Storm Warning, about the May 3, 1999 Oklahoma City tornado, which I reviewed earlier this year.

Overall, I give F5 2.5 stars out of 4. If you're a poetry fan, this book deserves a higher rating. F5 was published in May 2007, and is $17.13 at amazon.com.

I'll be back Friday with my bi-monthly 2-week outlook for hurricane season. The tropics are quiet, and the models are forecasting conditions will remain quiet into next week.

Jeff Masters

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1703. Drakoen
12:47 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
i still want to wait for the GFDL run before i believe this system will bypass the upper level trough.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30825
1702. Bamatracker
12:47 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
korithe....if its in the gulf everyone needs to pay attention. The highest probability now is florida. But always keep an eye on it.
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1700. Tazmanian
5:46 PM PDT on June 14, 2007
thanks KoritheMan
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115454
1699. IKE
7:45 PM CDT on June 14, 2007
Posted By: hurricane23 at 7:43 PM CDT on June 14, 2007.
View models here.


Those BAM models have 94L going to the north central GOM.
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1698. HurricaneFCast
12:47 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
Is there a chance something unexpected could happen, and this could turn around and hit Louisiana, rather than Florida?

If all the models are bringing it North and then East, then probably not Kori.. I would never rule anything out though..
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1695. KoritheMan
12:45 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
So, you guys think it is a tropical depression now? I'm leaning towards that direction. If it is, it's very disorganized.

And no one answered me: Is there a chance something unexpected could happen, and this could turn around and hit Louisiana, rather than Florida?
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1694. melwerle
12:46 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
99 bottles of beer on the wall, 99 bottles of..oh wait...wrong blog.

99 years of global warming on the wall...lol...

Someone had to say it - it is WAY non-confrontational right now...

How's it going?

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1693. WPBHurricane05
8:45 PM EDT on June 14, 2007
Keep reading, goes up to 40 MPH......
Member Since: July 31, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 8112
1692. WPBHurricane05
8:44 PM EDT on June 14, 2007
A nice 35 MPH depression Adrian....
Member Since: July 31, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 8112
1690. WPBHurricane05
8:42 PM EDT on June 14, 2007
Am i reading this correctly...30kt winds?

Navy has 20knots, maybe they have a better wind satellite.
Member Since: July 31, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 8112
1689. hurricane23
8:33 PM EDT on June 14, 2007
View models here.


WHXX01 KWBC 150015
CHGHUR
TROPICAL CYCLONE GUIDANCE MESSAGE
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
0015 UTC FRI JUN 15 2007

DISCLAIMER...NUMERICAL MODELS ARE SUBJECT TO LARGE ERRORS.
PLEASE REFER TO NHC OFFICIAL FORECASTS FOR TROPICAL CYCLONE
AND SUBTROPICAL CYCLONE INFORMATION.

ATLANTIC OBJECTIVE AIDS FOR

DISTURBANCE INVEST (AL942007) 20070615 0000 UTC

...00 HRS... ...12 HRS... ...24 HRS. .. ...36 HRS...
070615 0000 070615 1200 070616 0000 070616 1200

LAT LON LAT LON LAT LON LAT LON
BAMS 18.8N 86.4W 19.8N 87.0W 20.8N 87.6W 21.9N 88.7W
BAMD 18.8N 86.4W 19.7N 86.1W 20.3N 86.5W 20.9N 87.3W
BAMM 18.8N 86.4W 19.6N 86.6W 20.3N 87.1W 21.1N 88.0W
LBAR 18.8N 86.4W 19.4N 86.4W 20.5N 86.5W 22.3N 86.6W
SHIP 20KTS 23KTS 28KTS 30KTS
DSHP 20KTS 23KTS 28KTS 30KTS

...48 HRS... ...72 HRS... ...96 HRS. .. ..120 HRS...
070617 0000 070618 0000 070619 0000 070620 0000

LAT LON LAT LON LAT LON LAT LON
BAMS 22.9N 89.6W 25.4N 91.9W 28.8N 92.6W 30.8N 91.0W
BAMD 21.5N 88.1W 22.9N 89.5W 25.1N 89.6W 28.0N 85.6W
BAMM 21.9N 88.9W 23.9N 90.4W 27.0N 90.3W 29.6N 87.2W
LBAR 24.4N 86.5W 28.3N 84.6W 30.8N 79.5W 31.7N 73.4W
SHIP 33KTS 33KTS 27KTS 22KTS
DSHP 33KTS 33KTS 28KTS 23KTS

...INITIAL CONDITIONS...
LATCUR = 18.8N LONCUR = 86.4W DIRCUR = 0DEG SPDCUR = 0KT
LATM12 = 17.5N LONM12 = 86.8W DIRM12 = 5DEG SPDM12 = 6KT
LATM24 = 16.5N LONM24 = 86.7W
WNDCUR = 20KT RMAXWD = 90NM WNDM12 = 20KT
CENPRS = 1006MB OUTPRS = 1009MB OUTRAD = 180NM SDEPTH = M
RD34NE = 0NM RD34SE = 0NM RD34SW = 0NM RD34NW = 0NM

$$
NNNN
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1688. KoritheMan
12:42 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
Taz, I'll comment. The shear in the GoM may eventually die down within the next couple of days. If that happens, 94L attaining Category 1 status isn't an impossibilty, since waters are warm enough. The warmth isn't deep enough to support anything beyond that, though, probably.
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1687. Tazmanian
5:42 PM PDT on June 14, 2007
i see 35kt in there too : Bamatracker
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115454
1686. WPBHurricane05
8:41 PM EDT on June 14, 2007
Maybe it will become a weak TS and hit the Panhandle, they need rain bad....


Member Since: July 31, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 8112
1685. KoritheMan
12:41 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
I believe so, Bamatracker. Winds are probably around 25-30 knots within the low. If it has a closed circulation at the surface, it could be TD3 now. We'll have to see what the hurricane hunters find tommorow.
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1684. Tazmanian
5:38 PM PDT on June 14, 2007
her is the wind shear map for 94L right now where 94L is there is no wind shear to talk of right now but if it move more N it will be moveing in to 40 to 45kt of wind shear but where 94L is now wind shear is low

lol


this is the wind shear map i like to ues


any commets?
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115454
1683. KoritheMan
12:41 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
I'm going to update my blog either late tonight or tommorow. Probably tommorow, unless some explosive development takes place tonight.
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1682. Bamatracker
12:40 AM GMT on June 15, 2007


Am i reading this correctly...30kt winds?

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1680. KoritheMan
12:39 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
I'm not placing my bets on this going to Florida yet. Granted, it probably WILL, but it's far too early to tell where this will go, IF it even forms.
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1679. Drakoen
12:39 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
I would wait for the GFDL to see if it picks up on the upper level trough which should prevent anything from going north past the Southern Gulf of mexico.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30825
1678. KoritheMan
12:39 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
BTW, if this were to come here, I would be excited and not sleep. I would watch it all freaking night. I LOVE wind and rain. If winds get beyond Category 1 force here though, it gets a bit too bad to watch.
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1677. Drakoen
12:37 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
The gfs 18z has the system in north Florida. I guess it doesn't think that trough will be a factor kinda a weird.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30825
1676. KoritheMan
12:38 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
You sure I don't have to worry about this? I'm in Louisiana. I know steering currents are NE or NNE, but will something unexpected happen?
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1675. WPBHurricane05
8:37 PM EDT on June 14, 2007
Now RECON can "investigate" the "invest" tomorrow and see if it qualifies for TD 3.
Member Since: July 31, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 8112
1674. Patrap
7:37 PM CDT on June 14, 2007
Like a phat tick on a tired bloodhound we were.. 94L breathes LOL
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1673. Bamatracker
12:37 AM GMT on June 15, 2007


Rainfall rates are less than 1 inch right now. Dont see 16 inches of rain out of that


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1672. Drakoen
12:36 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
Posted By: Littleninjagrl at 12:35 AM GMT on June 15, 2007.

invest means they are just investigating right? Or is that something else?

it mean an area of interest most likely with a closed low. Let see what the system does overnight*
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30825
1670. Littleninjagrl
12:35 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
invest means they are just investigating right? Or is that something else?
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1669. Drakoen
12:33 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
its an invest now. hehe i expected that. i leave for an hour and a half and come back to an invest. hehe
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30825
1668. Thundercloud01221991
12:30 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
Here are the important images of 93L let me know if I forgot any of them

Link
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1667. TheCaneWhisperer
12:31 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
Evening SW! That's what's great about the weather, always unpredictable.
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1666. Bamatracker
12:30 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
thelmores...last time I went clicking on strange buttons on a strange page I ended up on a bad web page and made my wife mad
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1665. WPBHurricane05
8:29 PM EDT on June 14, 2007
Never mind
Member Since: July 31, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 8112
1664. ClearH2OFla
8:27 PM EDT on June 14, 2007
Hey Adrian better start building that ark you have 6 days
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1663. thelmores
12:26 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
Bama, just click on everything and find out! LOL
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1662. livinginnavarre
12:28 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
So wheres does the multi-colored lines say its going?
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1660. Bamatracker
12:27 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
Well then ive got my mission for this season....to crack the code of the Navy page!!
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1659. ClearH2OFla
8:26 PM EDT on June 14, 2007
LOL Thelm yep thats it
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1658. WPBHurricane05
8:25 PM EDT on June 14, 2007
Thats the point Bama, its so that the Government can send out information to public because of the Freedom of Information Act, but I don't think the act said that it had to be made easy for public use.
Member Since: July 31, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 8112
1657. thelmores
12:24 AM GMT on June 15, 2007


red is 40cm..... looks like not just south florida for 40cm = 15.7inches

bit optimistic? LOL
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1656. TheCaneWhisperer
12:23 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
Gotta love the humor in this blog, which is running rather well tonight might I add.
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1655. Bamatracker
12:23 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
Seriously though. Can one of our more educated bloggers do a blog on how to use the Navy page.

Other than using it to see an invest I have no idea what the rest of the stuff on that page is for.
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1654. WPBHurricane05
8:25 PM EDT on June 14, 2007
Every second is valuable in the tropics........
Member Since: July 31, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 8112
1653. Tazmanian
5:23 PM PDT on June 14, 2007
ok when could we see 95L LOL
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115454

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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