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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1002. Drakoen
3:28 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Miamiweather, i am gonna be conserative and say the most it could become is a strong tropical storm.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29934
1001. kmanislander
3:28 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Storm

For some reason I don't see the post. Pls check on your end
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15769
1000. HurricaneFCast
3:28 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Posted By: Drakoen at 3:27 PM GMT on June 14, 2007.

HurricaneFcast thats what i see i clear rotation in the middle with a noticeable outflow sugesting the low.



Thank You Drakoen! Glad someone else sees it.. =D
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999. WPBHurricane05
11:27 AM EDT on June 14, 2007
I see a spin......Link
Member Since: July 31, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 8112
998. IKE
10:26 AM CDT on June 14, 2007
KMAN...you may be close.

Do a visible loop of the western Atlantic. Click on NCEP fronts...they have added a 1009mb low just east of the NE Yucatan Peninsula.
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997. Miamiweather
3:24 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
i have a quick question what do you think if it does indeed develop what is the most it could become
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995. Drakoen
3:26 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
HurricaneFcast thats what i see i clear rotation in the middle with a noticeable outflow sugesting the low.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29934
994. kmanislander
3:25 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Storm

left a post on your blog
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992. HurricaneFCast
3:22 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
a
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991. MisterPerfect
3:21 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Dr. Masters,

I give your review of F5 a 1.5 out of 4 stars. I'll review your next entry when its completed.
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990. kmanislander
3:21 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Storm

will do
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989. hurricane23
11:18 AM EDT on June 14, 2007
The NHC likes to do things in a conservative way.But overall conditions are marginal for development.
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987. IKE
10:17 AM CDT on June 14, 2007
24N, 84W...that's slightly east of due south of Panama City.

Actually that's south of Tallahassee. My bad.
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986. WPBHurricane05
11:17 AM EDT on June 14, 2007
I guess they don't want to start the media hype.....
Member Since: July 31, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 8112
985. IKE
10:16 AM CDT on June 14, 2007
Posted By: WPBHurricane05 at 10:16 AM CDT on June 14, 2007.
Darn Avila, why do they send RECON down there when they don't think its going to develop......


Agree...why waste the gas.

That doesn't add up.
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984. HurricaneFCast
3:15 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
a
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983. kmanislander
3:13 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
I have looked at the vis loop and also very closely at the hi res GHCC image posted below. I believe the reason that the coordinates for recon were chosen may have more to do with what appears to be a low forming in the middle of the Yucatan channel than whats in the NW Caribbean itself. There is very little convection there but there is a suggestion of low level convergence at 22.5 N and 85.6 W. Decide for yourselves

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982. Drakoen
3:16 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Posted By: WPBHurricane05 at 3:16 PM GMT on June 14, 2007.

Darn Avila, why do they send RECON down there when they don't think its going to develop......

lol just a possiblility
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29934
980. Drakoen
3:14 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Hurricane23 i think based on the shear tendency that the shear will relax just enough to allow some slow development. As of now shear high.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29934
979. WPBHurricane05
11:15 AM EDT on June 14, 2007
Darn Avila, why do they send RECON down there when they don't think its going to develop......
Member Since: July 31, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 8112
978. IKE
10:13 AM CDT on June 14, 2007
Posted By: StormW at 10:13 AM CDT on June 14, 2007.
They only send RECON when an Atlantic system gets to 55 west...anything past that is out of range for the aircraft.

True.

Bet it's listed as an invest by this afternoon.

The coordinates they'll be investigating...

24N, 84W...that's slightly east of due south of Panama City.
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977. thelmores
3:08 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
boy that area SSW of Cayman is really starting to spin up!
Member Since: September 8, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 3805
976. Drakoen
3:12 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
GFS picking up on the upper level trough keep it strong over the area. Having the system hiting areas similiar to where Wilma did.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29934
975. hurricane23
11:11 AM EDT on June 14, 2007
535
ABNT20 KNHC 141510
TWOAT
TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
1130 AM EDT THU JUN 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


We'll avila thinks there nothing to worry about.30kt windshear across the area right now.
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973. IKE
10:10 AM CDT on June 14, 2007
Latest NAM model run 12Z...has the moisture heading almost due north. I think this system will go further west then Barry. Northern GOM...like the CMC is forecasting.

Latest NAM...

Link
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972. Drakoen
3:09 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Posted By: IKE at 3:08 PM GMT on June 14, 2007.

I don't think RECON has to check it out before it's an invest. What about the invest they had off of the coast of Africa? Invest 93L? There was no recon.

i am saying like a situation like this where there is some uncertaintanty.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29934
971. Drakoen
3:08 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Posted By: hurricane23 at 3:07 PM GMT on June 14, 2007.

Hey storm the NHC thinks this area may have some potential as recon is forcasted to fly out tommorow.What ever developes a track to the NNE to NE is the likely path to me.

i agree. based on the upper level trough over the southeast. GFS on the ball!
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29934
970. IKE
10:07 AM CDT on June 14, 2007
I don't think RECON has to check it out before it's an invest. What about the invest they had off of the coast of Africa? Invest 93L? There was no recon.
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969. southbeachdude
3:07 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
looks like more rain for south florida.....ugh!
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968. thelmores
3:07 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
AHH, it can become an invest before aircraft gets there......
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967. Drakoen
3:07 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Posted By: StormW at 3:05 PM GMT on June 14, 2007.

Morning Drak, Adrian, WPB!

good morning did you see this?

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.

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

Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29934
966. hurricane23
11:05 AM EDT on June 14, 2007
Hey storm the NHC thinks this area may have some potential as recon is forcasted to fly out tommorow.What ever developes a track to the NNE to NE is the likely path to me.
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965. thelmores
3:04 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
"Posted By: thelmores
I fully expect this to be an invest by the end of the day.... if not sooner."

geez, maybe I should play the lottery today! LOL
Member Since: September 8, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 3805
964. Drakoen
3:06 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Posted By: Aroughleague209 at 3:06 PM GMT on June 14, 2007.

So is it officially an INVEST???

If it is then I'll dance for joy.

sry to burst your bubble but its not an invest. Aircraft RECON has to check it out first.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29934
963. Drakoen
3:06 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
latest low cloud product.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29934
962. WPBHurricane05
11:05 AM EDT on June 14, 2007
Morning Storm. When you said that the SOI is just below +5, what does that mean?? thanks in advance
Member Since: July 31, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 8112
960. IKE
10:05 AM CDT on June 14, 2007
Is there an invest on it yet?
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957. fwbgirl
8:38 AM CST on June 14, 2007
Not sure im ready for this season we are using the same name list as 95... Which was the year that Navarre and Fort Walton area became a hurricane magnet.LOL
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956. Drakoen
3:01 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
thelmores the Quicksat image show that although there is no low at the surface, the are some strong winds where i see the spin.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29934
955. Drakoen
3:01 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
hehe. the NHC on top of things!
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29934
954. thelmores
2:22 PM GMT on June 14, 2007



I still see two area's of interest.......
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953. hurricane23
10:58 AM EDT on June 14, 2007
This is the area to watch...

fff
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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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