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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Viewing: 1953 - 1903

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1953. Drakoen
2:45 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
Posted By: Bamatracker at 2:41 AM GMT on June 15, 2007.

I've been doing the same kman....i'm probably reloading that dang page once a minute.

same here.need to know whats happening at the surface.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30695
1952. Drakoen
2:45 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
I am currently waiting for the GFDL solution... should be here at 11:00 pm, then i go to bed.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30695
1951. stormybil
2:43 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
hey is the speghitti models out on 94l local met in so fla. calling for very heavy downpors here on sat and sun . but didnt metion 94l yet go figure .
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1950. TheCaneWhisperer
2:43 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
Sorry, just having a hard time finding anything moving or drifting to the NW! Seagulls Maybe?
1949. Drakoen
2:44 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
post the image when you get it please.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30695
1948. Drakoen
2:42 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
Posted By: Bamatracker at 2:41 AM GMT on June 15, 2007.

I've been doing the same kman....i'm probably reloading that dang page once a minute.

just wait till 11:00 pm... i think the low is just north of the island of roatan.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30695
1947. kmanislander
2:43 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
Well

BB in a while. I'm getting eye strain LOL
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1946. Bamatracker
2:41 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
stormchaser...models are keeping it a minimal ts at best right now.
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1945. Bamatracker
2:40 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
I've been doing the same kman....i'm probably reloading that dang page once a minute.
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1943. kmanislander
2:38 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
Bama

I hope not !. I've been sitting here patiently for the data to download. As the old saying goes " watch pot never boils " !

Maybe if I brush my teeth and get ready for bed it will show up LOL
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1942. Bamatracker
2:39 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
Posted By: TheCaneWhisperer at 2:38 AM GMT on June 15, 2007.

Recon is planned for 24N 84W, that is NE of the current location. Just wondering if they made a typo

they made that plan at 1000 am et this morning. the whole thing has changed since then
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1941. Drakoen
2:37 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
Posted By: peterj at 2:37 AM GMT on June 15, 2007.

Does anyone know what the potential for this to form will be?

at this point there is too much uncertainty. i would wait for the RECON flight.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30695
1940. TheCaneWhisperer
2:36 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
Recon is planned for 24N 84W, that is NE of the current location. Just wondering if they made a typo?
1939. Drakoen
2:37 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
the Low is somewhere near the Yucatan peninsula. I look at the QuickSat would show us if something is at the surface.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30695
1938. Tazmanian
7:37 PM PDT on June 14, 2007
run for your lives
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1937. sporteguy03
2:35 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
The NHC knows where the center will be!
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1936. Tazmanian
7:35 PM PDT on June 14, 2007
is that a pine hoe eye in 94L LOL
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1935. Bamatracker
2:36 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
kman...it updated.....no carribbean pics though
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1934. peterj
2:32 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
Does anyone know what the potential for this to form will be?
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1933. Drakoen
2:36 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
Posted By: clwstmchasr at 2:35 AM GMT on June 15, 2007.

This thing may be an invest but it certainly does not look very impressive to me.

wait for dinural max.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30695
1932. IKE
9:34 PM CDT on June 14, 2007
Posted By: yamil20 at 9:28 PM CDT on June 14, 2007.
CLOUDINESS AND SHOWERS OVER THE NORTHWESTERN CARIBBEAN SEA ARE
ASSOCIATED WITH A BROAD AND ELONGATED AREA OF LOW PRESSURE.
UPPER-LEVEL WINDS ARE CURRENTLY UNFAVORABLE FOR DEVELOPMENT...BUT
MAY BECOME MORE FAVORABLE DURING THE NEXT 48 HR AS THE SYSTEM
DRIFTS TOWARD THE NORTHWEST. AN AIR FORCE RESERVE HURRICANE HUNTER
AIRCRAFT IS SCHEDULED TO INVESTIGATE THE SYSTEM FRIDAY
AFTERNOON...IF NECESSARY


uh-oh!!!!
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1931. Drakoen
2:35 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
that would be ironic Bama
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30695
1929. Bamatracker
2:34 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
kman....i think the quikstat just died LOL!
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1928. Drakoen
2:33 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
Posted By: TheCaneWhisperer at 2:33 AM GMT on June 15, 2007.

Recon fix is definatly not NW of the current location.

yea thats weird. I Still don't see a NE movement with any of this. i think they are being a little conservative going with the models.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30695
1927. Drakoen
2:32 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
Posted By: WPBHurricane05 at 2:32 AM GMT on June 15, 2007.

Favorable winds?? Is this a new concept???

not really the shear for the upper level trough is making for the upper level shear. I think that they knew this already but wanted to be more sure that the trough would mvoe to the north to allow for some development. if with the trough moving slowly to the north condition in my opnion would be marginal for development.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30695
1926. kmanislander
2:33 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
I'm waiting for the QS pass to see whats what, if anything, at the surface
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1925. TheCaneWhisperer
2:32 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
Recon fix is definatly not NW of the current location.
1924. Bamatracker
2:32 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
WPB...kind of a oxymoran.
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1923. Drakoen
2:31 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
Posted By: stormybil at 2:31 AM GMT on June 15, 2007.

it 94 l already wow that was a fast call . lets see what happens to this after midnight thats when these systems in the car. come alive as its been with barry . this might turn out to be barrys sister doing the same thing . ok whos on the night shift tonight . ?????

just untill or if the GFDL run comes out. If it doesn't come out i will observe the situation tommorrow.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30695
1922. WPBHurricane05
10:30 PM EDT on June 14, 2007
Favorable winds?? Is this a new concept???
Member Since: July 31, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 8112
1921. Drakoen
2:30 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
yes, that will be the low to watch for. lets see what happens with dinural max as the trough moves to the north slowy alllowing condition to be more favorable for development.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30695
1920. RL3AO
9:31 PM CDT on June 14, 2007
Should get interesting around here.
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1919. stormybil
2:28 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
it 94 l already wow that was a fast call . lets see what happens to this after midnight thats when these systems in the car. come alive as its been with barry . this might turn out to be barrys sister doing the same thing . ok whos on the night shift tonight . ?????
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1918. Bamatracker
2:29 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
draekon...just letting people what it says. Some dont like to click on the links.
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1917. Drakoen
2:29 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
yamil20 good call. NHC interested in it.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30695
1916. TheCaneWhisperer
2:27 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
Plan of the day tomorrow is for the area around the ULL or what was!
1915. yamil20
2:25 AM GMT on Junio 15, 2007
CLOUDINESS AND SHOWERS OVER THE NORTHWESTERN CARIBBEAN SEA ARE
ASSOCIATED WITH A BROAD AND ELONGATED AREA OF LOW PRESSURE.
UPPER-LEVEL WINDS ARE CURRENTLY UNFAVORABLE FOR DEVELOPMENT...BUT
MAY BECOME MORE FAVORABLE DURING THE NEXT 48 HR AS THE SYSTEM
DRIFTS TOWARD THE NORTHWEST. AN AIR FORCE RESERVE HURRICANE HUNTER
AIRCRAFT IS SCHEDULED TO INVESTIGATE THE SYSTEM FRIDAY
AFTERNOON...IF NECESSARY.
Link
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1914. Drakoen
2:28 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
Bamathe NAM is unreliable.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30695
1913. Drakoen
2:27 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
let now forget that ernesto made landall in South miami-dade county. Tracks can change very easily. The only reason i am on now is because i want to see the GFDl forecast (but still this model could change overngiht)
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30695
1912. Bamatracker
2:26 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
00z models runs starting to download. NAM has the area of moisture moving NNW. No closed low through 48 hours though

Link
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1911. Miamiweather
2:27 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
i wonder what the nhc says at 11
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1910. kmanislander
2:26 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
Bama

Soon come. Last download was 22:39 for the E Caribbean
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1909. Miamiweather
2:26 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
I understand thank you
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1908. groundman
2:21 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
Posted By: Bamatracker at 2:14 AM GMT on June 15, 2007.
so groundman....do you have bookmarks for your bookmarks? having that many kinda defeats the purpose dont it?


I'm Kidding of course, but most people I know have like maybe 10 or 20, I do have to scroll through mine but have a general idea where things are. Just 4 rolls of the mouse wheel though, less than 100!! LOL
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1907. Drakoen
2:25 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
Posted By: Miamiweather at 2:24 AM GMT on June 15, 2007.

drakoen what does red boxes mean

talking about his post. his was trying to pload a picture but i saw a red box.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30695
1906. hurricane91
2:25 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
yeah sry about that, i fix them now
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1905. Bamatracker
2:24 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
the quikstat sight says updated hourly....hasnt been updated in over an hour and half now. Liars!!!
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1904. RL3AO
9:23 PM CDT on June 14, 2007
unless it gets some more organization, the recon will most likely be canceled.
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1903. Miamiweather
2:23 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
drakoen what does red boxes mean
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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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