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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1353. StormJunkie
8:26 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Bt, when we get to this point is when folks need to start forking out the money ☺ and hey you could win.
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16229
1352. Drakoen
8:26 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Posted By: Miamiweather at 8:26 PM GMT on June 14, 2007.

i have a question if this thing does develop when would it be hitting south Florida?

42 hours out.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30084
1350. Bamatracker
8:25 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
so when are going to get the offical forcast from some of you bloggers in here? Here a lot pieces but dont see anybody putting money down on the table yet.
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1349. splash3392
8:20 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
For scottsvb

This blog has been great for us. I never really paid attention to the weather very much until the threat was urgent. I now know how necessary it is for someone in the home to keep tabs on what is happening. There is lots to prepare when weather threatens and this blog not only educates me but gives enough information to let me use my judgement as to preparations necessary for possible weather coming my way.
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1348. Miamiweather
8:25 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
i have a question if this thing does develop when would it be hitting south Florida?
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1347. Drakoen
8:24 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Posted By: StormJunkie at 8:24 PM GMT on June 14, 2007.

Drak, the 12z GFS shows both parts of this system much like the CMC although track and intensity on the two differ between the model a little.

i know that....
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30084
1346. StormJunkie
8:23 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Drak, the 12z GFS shows both parts of this system much like the CMC although track and intensity on the two differ between the models a little.
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16229
1344. Drakoen
8:20 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
ok. So the GFS is basically in the same spot as before.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30084
1341. StormJunkie
8:18 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Check the latest GFS here Drak.

Not as many viewing options, but it is better then nothing.
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16229
1340. quakeman55
8:16 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
The 12Z CMC run is now taking that W Carib blob northeast across Florida and then a second landfall near the Carolinas...closer to what Adrian was thinking earlier. We'll see what pans out...
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1339. StormHype
8:11 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
scottsvb said:
I feel these forums are for people who can post up things like..new data recieved from recons...posting links to model runs...showing sat data or posting bulletins on watches and warnings on all types of weather and finally getting information released by the NWS and the NHC so people dont have to surf the web (if they dont know all the links of where to go). I would say its not a good place to educate someone cause there are alot of posers who hype up things or say this and that and really dont know what in the world they are talking about...and they are just wishcasting. The best for education is reading offical books or getting info from real Mets.


Actually, this isn't a forum. It's Dr. Master's BLOG. The blog topic is currently the review of the F5 book. Are anyone's comments currently on-topic? Obviously not. So what you feel or what I feel this BLOG is for doesn't matter. It's a free for all until Dr Master's shuts it down.
Member Since: May 31, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1200
1338. StormJunkie
8:15 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Also, if y'all have not noticed yet, SSTs are really starting to heat up, even compared to the past three years. Good comparison maps in my blog. Also check out the lightening animation. I hope to have a longer version on the site soon, just am having trouble getting the quality I want.
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16229
1337. Drakoen
8:16 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Posted By: Bamatracker at 8:15 PM GMT on June 14, 2007.

so are all these models still showing this "low" three days out? Seems like they have been saying 3 days out for 3 days now.

yes a weak low (most likely). heading in the general direction of Florida.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30084
1336. Drakoen
8:14 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
yea i know i am just stating the latest data with the GFS.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30084
1335. Bamatracker
8:14 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
so are all these models still showing this "low" three days out? Seems like they have been saying 3 days out for 3 days now.
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1334. Drakoen
8:13 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
As you can see some convection is over the area where the 850mb analysis is showing a low.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30084
1333. StormJunkie
8:11 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Yep, thanks SW ☺ that graphic really helped me understand things a little better.

Drak, that 950mb you are viewing on the GFS is from the 06z run, not the 12z. For some reason FSU is not updating the GFS data for the 12z.
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16229
1332. Drakoen
8:10 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Posted By: homegirl at 8:01 PM GMT on June 14, 2007.

Is 850 vorticity the closest to the surface? I think it is, would this mean an llc is forming? Link

yes a low is forming there should move to the NE.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30084
1330. IKE
3:08 PM CDT on June 14, 2007
Key West, Fl. extended mentions high pressure building in to the Florida peninsula by Sunday. This system will have to move toward south Florida in a hurry or it's not going there...

"Long term (sunday through thursday)...
an Atlantic ridge of high pressure will begin to build across the
Florida Peninsula Sunday. This will mark the start of a transition
from above average rain chances to more of a normal weather pattern
for middle June. An Atlantic ridge of high pressure will extend across
the Florida Peninsula Sunday night through Thursday. Precipitable water values
should fall below two inches Sunday night. By sunset Monday
evening...precipitable water values should be just below one and three quarters of
an inch. The Sunday night through Thursday portion of the zone
forecasts for the Florida Keys will be based on climatology."
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1328. homegirl
8:08 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Thx all! So there is rotation at 5000 feet that wasn't there 3 hours ago?
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1327. Drakoen
8:09 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
nice graphic stormjunkie
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30084
1323. Drakoen
8:07 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
at 950mb i see a system affecting around the general area of South Florida.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30084
1322. StormJunkie
8:04 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
hg, 850mb is lower levels.
Mb to Feet Graphic

Also find that from here.
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16229
1321. Drakoen
8:05 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Posted By: DocBen at 8:02 PM GMT on June 14, 2007.

drak - how about that EPAC stuff that shows on your pic?

000
AXPZ20 KNHC 141523
TWDEP

TROPICAL WEATHER DISCUSSION
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
1605 UTC THU JUN 14 2007

TROPICAL WEATHER DISCUSSION FOR THE EASTERN PACIFIC OCEAN FROM
THE EQUATOR TO 32N...EAST OF 140W.

BASED ON 1200 UTC SURFACE ANALYSIS AND SATELLITE IMAGERY THROUGH
1500 UTC.

...TROPICAL WAVES...

TROPICAL WAVE N OF 6N ALONG 90W MOVING W 10 KT. WAVE IS
ENHANCING CONVECTION OVER GUATEMALA AND EL SALVADOR.

TROPICAL WAVE FROM 4N-14N ALONG 104W MOVING W 10 KT. SCATTERED
MODERATE TO STRONG CONVECTION ASSOCIATED WITH THE WAVE FROM
7N-14N BETWEEN 100W-107W.

TROPICAL WAVE FROM 4N-14N ALONG 116W IS MOVING W 10-15 KT. WAVE
IS ENHANCING ITCZ CONVECTION FROM 5N-8N WITHIN 120 NM W OF THE
WAVE.

..ITCZ...

INTERTROPICAL CONVERGENCE ZONE AXIS ALONG 8N81W 11N95W 9N110W
7N125W 10N140W. SCATTERED MODERATE TO STRONG WITHIN 200 NM S OF
AXIS FROM 91W TO 96W AND FROM 7N-14N BETWEEN 100W AND 107W.
SCATTERED MODERATE ISOLATED STRONG WITHIN 120 NM S OF AXIS FROM
138W TO 140W.

...DISCUSSION...
UPPER LEVEL CYCLONIC CIRCULATION MOVING W 10 KT NEAR 14N136W.
AN UPPER LEVEL RIDGE IS NW OF THE CYCLONIC CIRCULATION.
DOWNSTREAM UPPER LEVEL ANTICYCLONIC CIRCULATION CENTERED NEAR
21N123W WITH RIDGE N FROM THE CIRCULATION TO 30N124W. WATER
VAPOR SATELLITE IMAGERY INDICATES MODERATE/STRONG SUBSIDENCE AND
STABLE CONDITIONS N OF 20N W OF 115W AND FROM 10N-20N W OF 130W.
AN ILL-DEFINED MID/UPPER LEVEL CYCLONIC CIRCULATION MOVING W 10
KT NEAR 18N109W. A MID/UPPER LEVEL TROUGH IS N OF THE CYCLONIC
CIRCULATION EXTENDING FROM SW TEXAS TO CENTRAL BAJA CALIFORNIA.
MID/UPPER LEVEL ANTICYCLONIC CIRCULATION IS CENTERED OVER
SOUTHERN MEXICO NEAR 17N96W WITH A RIDGE N INTO THE BAY OF
CAMPECHE AND SW TO 11N108W.

SURFACE DISSIPATING 1009 MB LOW...REMNANT OF TROPICAL DEPRESSION
THREE-E...IS SWIRL OF LOW CLOUDS NEAR 20N116W. EARLIER ISOLATED
SHOWERS HAVE DISSIPATED. SURFACE TROUGH EMBEDDED IN THE ITCZ
EXTENDS FROM 14N134W TO 6N138W. ISOLATED SHOWERS AND TSTMS ALONG
THE TROUGH FROM 8N TO 11N.

HIGH PRESSURE CENTERED N OF THE REGION NEAR 35N142W 1028 MB WITH
RIDGE EXTENDING TO 23N113W. BROKEN/OVERCAST STRATOCUMULUS CLOUDS
WITH POSSIBLE ISOLATED SHOWERS ARE N OF 17N W OF 115W.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30084
1317. Bamatracker
7:59 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
here is a link to the recon page

Link

this way we dont thing your trying to get us on hardcoreweather
:)
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1316. homegirl
8:01 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Especially if you click on the previous (-3hr) run, you can see the difference.
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1315. DocBen
8:00 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
drak - how about that EPAC stuff that shows on your pic?
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1314. IKE
3:01 PM CDT on June 14, 2007
Tampa afternoon discussion doesn't even mention anything about the Caribbean and the trough is expected to lift north...

"National Weather Service Tampa Bay Ruskin Florida
138 PM EDT Thursday Jun 14 2007


Short term (tonight-sat)...aloft a large low will remain centered
across the New England region with the trough extending SW down the
eastern US coast through the period. Surface high pressure is ridging
down the state from the NE as weak troughing remains across southern
Florida. Drier air has moved into the middle and upper levels which will
keep rain chances low this afternoon and tonight. The weak trough
will lift moisture northward a bit for Friday and further north for Sat
as the high pressure shifts east. This will allow for scattered
thunderstorms across the southern half of the area Friday and
scattered to numerous storms across the area Saturday. Lows will
moderate through the period with middle 60s to lower 70s tonight
and upper 60s to middle 70s Friday night. Highs are expected in the
upper 80s to around 90 Friday with a bit cooler across the south Sat
(mid-upper 80s) as will have increased moisture and cloud cover.


Long term (sat night-thu)...latest model runs continue to give
varying solutions for next week and overall confidence in forecast
remain low. In general some middle/upper level ridging is expected to
build over the region Sunday into Monday then the next trough should
move east into the southeast U.S. Wednesday and Thursday. At the
surface...ridge axis is expected to drift north into north central
Florida Monday then become suppressed south some by Wednesday and
Thursday. Low level flow will start out the period coming from the
east southeast then shift to a more south southwest as trough
approaches during mid-week. Deeper moisture should spread north
during the period and this combined with daytime heating and the sea
breezes should lead to scattered mainly afternoon and evening
thunderstorms each day...but could occur at almost anytime as trough
approaches during mid-week. Temperatures will remain near normal
through the period."............

I'm not convinced the moisture/disturbance will head for south Florida. Maybe I'm wrong.
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1312. homegirl
8:00 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Is 850 vorticity the closest to the surface? I think it is, would this mean an llc is forming? Link
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1310. IceSlater
7:54 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
I always read, but don't post much...

BUT...

I do recall someone posting on here about 10 days ago in reference to the GFS showing a LONG RANGE model of a storm hitting S. FLA as a Cat1... Obviously, it doesn't look like we'll be seeing a Cat1, but I did find it interesting that that scenario could play out...

The GFS may have been right on... Can anyone recall that post?
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1308. Patrap
2:51 PM CDT on June 14, 2007
Cozumel has a Ne wind too....the wu-page. Link
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1307. Bamatracker
7:49 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
not an invest on here

Link
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1306. Patrap
2:49 PM CDT on June 14, 2007
Lots of surface inflow from the sw..interesting stuff going on in that area..
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1305. Patrap
2:47 PM CDT on June 14, 2007
Been seeing that here as well StormW.Could be the intializing of the feature.Link
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1303. Bamatracker
7:45 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
hey sj...Lucky. I still havent made it to the beach this year. Im going to be stuck at work all weekend. Hate that I cant blob watch
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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.