F5: a book review

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

Share this Blog
3
+

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

Reader Comments

Comments will take a few seconds to appear.

Post Your Comments

Please sign in to post comments.

or Join

Not only will you be able to leave comments on this blog, but you'll also have the ability to upload and share your photos in our Wunder Photos section.

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 403 - 353

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35 | 36 | 37 | 38 | 39 | 40 | 41 | 42 | 43 | 44Blog Index

403. thelmores
11:40 PM GMT on June 13, 2007
my circle should have been about a circle width ssw
Member Since: September 8, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 3805
402. TheCaneWhisperer
11:32 PM GMT on June 13, 2007
Posted By: FLBoy at 11:03 PM GMT on June 13, 2007.

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE TAMPA BAY RUSKIN FL


AT THE
SURFACE...MODELS ARE CONTINUING TO TRY AND DEVELOP AN AREA OF WEAK
LOW PRESSURE OVER THE SOUTHEAST GULF FRIDAY NIGHT THEN MOVE IT
NORTHEAST ACROSS FLORIDA ON SATURDAY. FOR NOW HAVE CONTINUED WITH
PREVIOUS FORECAST OF SLIGHT CHANCE TO CHANCE POPS FOR FRIDAY NIGHT
INTO SATURDAY AND WILL WAIT TO SEE HOW THINGS EVOLVE OVER THE NEXT
COUPLE OF DAYS.


Seems like De Jas Vous all over again! That weekend Barry formed!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
399. thelmores
11:37 PM GMT on June 13, 2007



not much to it, but there is a swirl here! If the shear relaxes, who knows! :)
Member Since: September 8, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 3805
398. Drakoen
11:37 PM GMT on June 13, 2007
I will update my blog shortly...stay tuned
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29942
397. Drakoen
11:34 PM GMT on June 13, 2007
I give the system Friday morning south or southwest Cuba.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29942
395. Drakoen
11:33 PM GMT on June 13, 2007
lol hiexpress.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29942
394. HIEXPRESS
11:25 PM GMT on June 13, 2007
Trough Warnings
LOL
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
393. Drakoen
11:30 PM GMT on June 13, 2007
at least you will learn about tropical weather...
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29942
392. Drakoen
11:29 PM GMT on June 13, 2007
visit my blog VilleWatch learn everything in it.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29942
390. Drakoen
11:27 PM GMT on June 13, 2007
Posted By: weatherguy03 at 11:26 PM GMT on June 13, 2007.

Posted By: Drakoen at 7:16 PM EDT on June 13, 2007.

MMFSU prefers a more southerly track.


That model has not been run since October 2006:)

ah lol i forgot XD.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29942
389. VilleWatch
11:28 PM GMT on June 13, 2007
I recently started following this blog and the discussion. I'm interested in learning the meteorology behind all this, however. I've never had formal weather study--didn't take any meteorology or anything in college.

But I want to find some fairly high level information sources (books, etc.). Anyone have suggestions on where to start for tropical meteorology study? This is a long-term thing for me.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
388. Miamiweather
11:26 PM GMT on June 13, 2007
In miami are we going to get severe storms tomorrow also
386. weatherguy03
7:25 PM EDT on June 13, 2007
Posted By: Drakoen at 7:16 PM EDT on June 13, 2007.

MMFSU prefers a more southerly track.


That model has not been run since October 2006:)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
385. Drakoen
11:24 PM GMT on June 13, 2007
Posted By: hurricane23 at 11:18 PM GMT on June 13, 2007.

Did you guys see the lighting video i recorded?

yes including the fact of forecast intensity and forecast track hmmm.

Posted By: drusierDMD at 11:23 PM GMT on June 13, 2007.

63% hes wrong? i dont think it will make TS status

wait and see game

Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29942
384. Drakoen
11:22 PM GMT on June 13, 2007
Stormchaser if it Central Florida it would be extreme Southern Central Florida because the low is expected to move to the NE then eventually east.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29942
383. drusierDMD
11:14 PM GMT on June 13, 2007
63% hes wrong? i dont think it will make TS status
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
382. Stormchaser2007
11:21 PM GMT on June 13, 2007
It kinda is wierd to see the models in agreement.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
381. hurricane23
19:22 EDT le 13 juin 2007
Lighting video i uploaded today over my house...

Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13640
380. MrCold
11:13 PM GMT on June 13, 2007
Global warming seems to be reducing the number and frequency of intense F4 and F5 tornadoes. I guess that is something to be thankful for global warming ;o)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
378. Drakoen
11:19 PM GMT on June 13, 2007
Posted By: hurricane23 at 11:18 PM GMT on June 13, 2007.

Did you guys see the lighting video i recorded?

i'll watch it now although it seems everyone is busy analyzing the models
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29942
376. ClearH2OFla
7:16 PM EDT on June 13, 2007
ah i see that drats was hoping for a nice rainy weekend. I love the rain
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
375. hurricane23
19:17 EDT le 13 juin 2007
Did you guys see the lighting video i recorded?
Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13640
374. Drakoen
11:17 PM GMT on June 13, 2007
I would aslo like to note that there is some lower level convergence south of Cuba.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29942
373. HurricaneFCast
11:17 PM GMT on June 13, 2007
Forum Giant Tropical Outlook:
Link
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
372. Drakoen
11:16 PM GMT on June 13, 2007
Posted By: WPBHurricane05 at 11:14 PM GMT on June 13, 2007.

Forecast low?? Forget this.......

well the forecast is two days out so its something to keep an eye on :)
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29942
371. Stormchaser2007
11:15 PM GMT on June 13, 2007
Sorry WPB!!! need more java!!!!!!! :(
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
370. Drakoen
11:16 PM GMT on June 13, 2007
MMFSU prefers a more southerly track.
MMFSU
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29942
368. HurricaneFCast
11:15 PM GMT on June 13, 2007
WPB- Lol.. Yeah.. Well there's nothing else to go on, it's boring right now :(
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
367. Stormchaser2007
11:12 PM GMT on June 13, 2007
Lol, Wow, Nice. Precise predictions.. Gotta love it!

LOL! Hmmmmmmmm wait that doesnt add up to 100:)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
366. WPBHurricane05
7:14 PM EDT on June 13, 2007
I will believe it when I see it....
Member Since: July 31, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 8112
365. WPBHurricane05
7:14 PM EDT on June 13, 2007
Forecast low?? Forget this.......
Member Since: July 31, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 8112
364. WPBHurricane05
7:12 PM EDT on June 13, 2007
Lol, Wow, Nice. Precise predictions.. Gotta love it!

163% total......
Member Since: July 31, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 8112
363. Drakoen
11:13 PM GMT on June 13, 2007
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29942
362. Drakoen
11:12 PM GMT on June 13, 2007
Posted By: WPBHurricane05 at 11:12 PM GMT on June 13, 2007.

I don't see the area we are supposed to watch....

watch the caribbean over the next few days.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29942
361. HurricaneFCast
11:12 PM GMT on June 13, 2007
WPB- That's because it isn't there yet.. Lol. It's a forecasted low.. :/
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
360. Drakoen
11:11 PM GMT on June 13, 2007
Posted By: ClearH2OFla at 11:09 PM GMT on June 13, 2007.

Thanks a bunch any chance of a barry path

not likely more of a South Florida event if things play out.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29942
359. WPBHurricane05
7:10 PM EDT on June 13, 2007
I don't see the area we are supposed to watch....
Member Since: July 31, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 8112
358. hurricane23
19:11 EDT le 13 juin 2007
Here my small video guys of the lighting over my house...

Put up the volume on your PC speakers.

Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13640
357. Drakoen
11:09 PM GMT on June 13, 2007
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29942
355. HurricaneFCast
11:08 PM GMT on June 13, 2007
Posted By: Drakoen at 11:07 PM GMT on June 13, 2007.

yes they have which is very impressive and can support tropical cyclogenesis better now.


Exactly, which, furthermore provides more evidence of a busy Hurricane Season. I do believe though that the GOM did cool a bit after Barry traversed it, isn't that correct?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
354. ClearH2OFla
7:06 PM EDT on June 13, 2007
Thanks a bunch any chance of a barry path
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
353. Stormchaser2007
11:06 PM GMT on June 13, 2007
163..............

Member Since: Posts: Comments:

Viewing: 403 - 353

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35 | 36 | 37 | 38 | 39 | 40 | 41 | 42 | 43 | 44Blog Index

Top of Page

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.