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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1103. TheCaneWhisperer
12:37 PM EDT on June 14, 2007
There is definatly a surface low trying to get going there. You can see the low level cloud field starting to focus on that area.
1102. scottsvb
4:39 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Ok feel free to believe that about the CMC and no barry was tracked best by the GFS-GFDL and ECMWF... only thing the CMC picked up on was where the development will take place..after that it changed landfalls on each run..and finally after landfall it was off saying the Panhandle from Panama City-Pensacola.
Member Since: January 22, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1689
1101. melwerle
4:34 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Seems to me that the cmc was the most accurate...seemed to have it pegged pretty closely right from the beginning (if i remember correctly).
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 12 Comments: 1837
1099. IKE
4:32 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Posted By: scottsvb at 11:29 AM CDT on June 14, 2007.
THE CMC was defidently not accurate with Barry. It picked up on something down there but its path was wayyy off.


No it wasn't. It had Barry coming in further north...around the big bend of Florida...within 100-200 miles of it's eventual landfall.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
1098. Tazmanian
4:31 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
: weatherboykris gulf sea temps are going up fast
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115080
1097. stormybil
4:29 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
local mets here south fla . said
they are watching the low near the yucatan . for a possible development in the next 24 hours . but its unlikley to do anything winds are to high in that area right now
1096. scottsvb
4:29 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
THE CMC was defidently not accurate with Barry. It picked up on something down there but its path was wayyy off.
Member Since: January 22, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1689
1095. hcubed
4:29 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Posted By: hurricanearough at 3:37 PM GMT on June 14, 2007.

*Sigh* Yeah, Masters just banned my 4th account so hey, I am back.


First, thanks for letting us know who you are, it makes the ignore/reporting that much easier.

Second, all of your bans have one thing in common - you.

The majority of the people who come to this site live in hurricane prone areas, and do NOT want to be hit with a storm. We want to have as much advance warning as we can. Your continued wishing that storms develop and hit people, along with cursing and cut-downs are what the admin (Aaron) keeps using to cut you off.

Changing your name proves your persistance, but we all see you as a buzzing fly...

I predict your 5th ban to occur within the next hour or so.
Member Since: May 18, 2007 Posts: 289 Comments: 1639
1094. weatherboykris
4:27 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Hey Taz.I've been busy,haven't had much blogging time.Anyway,if a center becomes better defined,we'll likely see 94L soon.As far as the high,it's been weak the past week or so,but the GFS calls for that to change soon.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
1093. Drakoen
4:26 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
I think the convection will die down today the fire back up and sustain itself tommorrow morning.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30489
1092. Drakoen
4:25 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Posted By: weatherboykris at 4:16 PM GMT on June 14, 2007.

Kind of weird,not much model support for the system.

yea just the CMC, GFS and the old GFDL run
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30489
1091. thelmores
4:24 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Taz, it's not an invest...... yet.....
Member Since: September 8, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 3805
1090. IKE
4:23 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Posted By: scottsvb at 11:14 AM CDT on June 14, 2007.
NAM is a horrible model to go by....its off 85% of the time.

CMC is the next worst model to go by..its off 67% of the time


The NAM is unreliable. The CMC was accurate on Barry.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
1089. Drakoen
4:22 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Posted By: ClearH2OFla at 4:18 PM GMT on June 14, 2007.

Drak i missed it if you posted but i need a direct hit please if you can steer it my way


look at the first post on this page.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30489
1087. Tazmanian
4:19 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
hey : weatherboykris whats up? it been a long time from the last time we talk why dont we have 94L up on the navy site ???? and what is the update on the big H?
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115080
1086. Patrap
4:19 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Buoys | Buoy Forecast | Models | Pacific Forecast | QuikCAST | Chartroom | El Nino | Tutorials |

NORTH ATLANTIC IMAGERYLink
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128259
1085. ClearH2OFla
4:18 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Drak i missed it if you posted but i need a direct hit please if you can steer it my way
1084. rwdobson
4:16 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
"The law is the law and people have rights and can protect themselves from slanderous behavior of others. It is actually becoming much more popular and jail time awaits those who are convicted."

Oh, please. No jail time awaits anybody. Even if something is slanderous, slander is a civil matter that doesn't involve jail. Or law enforcement. The slander victim has to sue. And I doubt you could collect much in the way of damages from being "slandered" in the comments of a weather blog.
Member Since: June 12, 2002 Posts: 0 Comments: 1589
1083. weatherboykris
4:16 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Kind of weird,not much model support for the system.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
1082. weatherboykris
4:15 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Plane's flying tomorrow.

Plan of the Day
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


000
NOUS42 KNHC 141400
WEATHER RECONNAISSANCE FLIGHTS
CARCAH, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER, MIAMI, FL.
1000 AM EDT THU 14 JUN 2007
SUBJECT: TROPICAL CYCLONE PLAN OF THE DAY (TCPOD)
VALID 15/1100Z TO 16/1100Z JUNE 2007
TCPOD NUMBER.....07-022

I. ATLANTIC REQUIREMENTS
1. SUSPECT AREA (GULF OF MEXICO)
A. 15/1800Z
B. AFXXX 01DDA INVEST
C. 15/1600Z
D. 24.0N 84.0W
E. 15/1530Z TO 15/2300Z
F. SFC TO 10,000 FT
2. OUTLOOK FOR SUCCEEDING DAY.....NEGATIVE.




Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
1081. scottsvb
4:14 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
NAM is a horrible model to go by....its off 85% of the time.

CMC is the next worst model to go by..its off 67% of the time

Nogaps is a hit or miss model...its a 50-50 run

UkMet is about the same as the nogaps 50-50 run

ECMWF is a decent 3-6 day model...67% of the time it will pick up on something

GFS... realiable model..especially in the short term..but at times has convective feedback problems,,but still 80% accurate up to 3 days out.

GFDL..run off of the GFS is slightly more accurate..but still needs working with intensity of a system...85% on path and 50% on intensity.

NRL does invests and the NHC dont need a invest to check out a system (if they feel warrented). The system in the carribean is a broad low.. most people see the circulation from the mid-levels ..not the L-Levels.. although since a few models feel something minor might form...they decided that since it might come close or cross florida...they warrent a recon (possilbe invest) but they can scrap them at anytime..especially early that same day of flight. So its not sure things they will actually go down there.
Member Since: January 22, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1689
1080. weathersp
4:14 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Basicly Drako is that there is nothing but showers.
Member Since: January 14, 2007 Posts: 17 Comments: 4140
1079. gthsii
4:14 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
cantoriesnumber1fan: isn't slander a different beast from just using a curse word. Perhaps I read your post wrong...but doesn't it just seem a waste of resources if all we're talking about is a couple words. A rose by any other name... Yes, I agree if someone personally attacks another on a forum then indeed, it could be construed as slander, and should be pursued as such. But if all we're talking about is the seven words you can't say on television (and not directed at someone in particular) then, to me at least, it's just something to ignore.
1077. IKE
4:12 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Posted By: Drakoen at 11:10 AM CDT on June 14, 2007.
Posted By: IKE at 4:07 PM GMT on June 14, 2007.

Here's the 12Z NAM model run...

damn my Java player isn't working for some reason. Can you explain to me in detail what it shows?


Moisture gets drawn north. Some moisture goes NE across south Florida. Big batch of moisture heads for the Florida panhandle. Never does show a surface low.

Then again...the NAM had a 996 mb storm in the western Caribbean on a model run about 3 days ago.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
1076. WPBHurricane05
4:11 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
What is PaRR or PB??
Member Since: July 31, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 8112
1075. flsky
4:11 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Any PaRR or PB folks on this blog?
Member Since: October 24, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1956
1074. Drakoen
4:10 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Posted By: IKE at 4:07 PM GMT on June 14, 2007.

Here's the 12Z NAM model run...

damn my Java player isn't working for some reason. Can you explain to me in detail what it shows?
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30489
1073. stormybil
4:09 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
it might do something latter on tonight all the carribieans blob like the late hours this year .
1072. Drakoen
4:08 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Posted By: hurricanearough at 4:02 PM GMT on June 14, 2007.

the NAM is unreliable

not necessarily just want to see the what happens at the surface.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30489
1071. TheCaneWhisperer
4:08 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Flight is for tomorrow @ 1800Z Taz.
1070. HurricaneFCast
4:08 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Don't we need 30 degrees Celsius to maintain tropical systems? I see the loop current is looking to be present in the GOM again this season. No doubt Dr Masters will hit on that in his Friday prognosis. Anybody know what the African dust scenarios look like this year? That ULH in the middle of Caribb might help slowly develop the choppiness in the W Caribb. But it looks very disorganized right now.



Whoa Whoa Whoa.. No.
26 Degrees Celsius is considered "Favorable" 30 Degrees Celsius is enough to support a Cat 5 easily.... Lol.
The entire Gulf Of Mexico has favorable SST's.. Any "Blue" areas are unfavorable.. put it that way.
Member Since: April 20, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 1482
1069. Tazmanian
4:07 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
looks like they are sending out the recon too take a look one funny thing is that they dont have 94L up on the navy site
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115080
1068. IKE
4:07 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Here's the 12Z NAM model run...

Link
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
1067. TheCaneWhisperer
4:07 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
That's the same thing the NHC said about the area that later spawned Barry. I admit, I discounted it also and went on to moving in the rain. It wasn't till a friend called me late Friday night to tell me Barry had formed. Barry was also in 30kts of wind shear when he formed. Personally, I am not going to discount anything this time and see what happens! They would not schedual a recon if a possibility wasn't there.
1066. cantoriesnumber1fan
4:06 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
The law is the law and people have rights and can protect themselves from slanderous behavior of others. It is actually becoming much more popular and jail time awaits those who are convicted.
1065. gthsii
4:03 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
I'm stunned....if you actually report obscene posts to local law enforcement, you are wasting much needed resources. Law enforcement should be busting drug dealers, killers, sex offenders, etc. Anyone who can't handle a couple of "bad" words ought to get off the internet, lock themselves in their house (for you might actually overhear a bad word or two in public), never rent a PG or higher rated movie, not watch TV and certainly not pick up the phone for fear of a prank call.
1064. Tazmanian
4:03 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
NOUS42 KNHC 141400
WEATHER RECONNAISSANCE FLIGHTS
CARCAH, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER, MIAMI, FL.
1000 AM EDT THU 14 JUN 2007
SUBJECT: TROPICAL CYCLONE PLAN OF THE DAY (TCPOD)
VALID 15/1100Z TO 16/1100Z JUNE 2007
TCPOD NUMBER.....07-022

I. ATLANTIC REQUIREMENTS
1. SUSPECT AREA (GULF OF MEXICO) A. 15/1800Z
B. AFXXX 01DDA INVEST
C. 15/1600Z
D. 24.0N 84.0W
E. 15/1530Z TO 15/2300Z
F. SFC TO 10,000 FT
2. OUTLOOK FOR SUCCEEDING DAY.....NEGATIVE.

II. PACIFIC REQUIREMENTS
1. NEGATIVE RECONNAISSANCE REQUIREMENTS.
2. SUCCEEDING DAY OUTLOOK.....NEGATIVE.
JWP

and today is june 14th what gives?
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115080
1063. Drakoen
4:03 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
sporteguy conditions may allow for marginal development
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30489
1062. fldoughboy
4:02 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
.
1060. sporteguy03
4:02 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Isn't that contradicting or foreshadowing that maybe something will develop? Help Hurricane 23, is the NHC saying nothing will develop today but could tomorrow?
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1059. Drakoen
4:01 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
anyone have the NAM 12z run?
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30489
1058. sporteguy03
4:00 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Wait, the outlook sends unfavorable but you send out the recon?
Member Since: July 7, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 5306
1057. Tazmanian
4:00 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Tropical Weather Outlook



Statement as of 11:30 am EDT on June 14, 2007

For the North Atlantic...Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico...


A large area of cloudiness and showers over the northwestern
Caribbean Sea is associated with a broad area of low pressure.
Upper-level winds are not favorable for development.


Tropical cyclone formation is not expected during the next 48 hours.
$$
Forecaster Avila
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115080
1056. fldoughboy
3:59 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
DO I think the blob will develop? Ask the goat.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtBirwSpLJY

LOL
1055. WPBHurricane05
3:59 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
lol quakeman
Member Since: July 31, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 8112
1054. quakeman55
3:58 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Local law enforcement agency = Aaron, lol
Member Since: March 31, 2002 Posts: 1 Comments: 1276

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About

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