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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1852. Skyepony (Mod)
1:56 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
spagetti models
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1851. IKE
8:55 PM CDT on June 14, 2007
Posted By: StormThug at 8:52 PM CDT on June 14, 2007.
can some one give me a link too the model plot?and is louisiana at risk from this?


They could be. Then again, they might not.
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1850. kmanislander
1:54 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
Thel

I have the link for the hi res quikscat page but that image has not loaded on mine yet !
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1849. thelmores
1:53 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
lust posted it above Bama... Cayman posted it at 9:40, just didn't label for ya! :)
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1848. Bamatracker
1:53 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
that is from the ascending pass...arent we waiting for the decending pass?
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1847. ClearH2OFla
9:51 PM EDT on June 14, 2007
Any Spag models out yet. Speaking of Spag that's what i m having for diner. I know I know too late for all those carbs but hey gotta eat.
1846. Skyepony (Mod)
1:54 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
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1845. Drakoen
1:53 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
Posted By: StormThug at 1:52 AM GMT on June 15, 2007.

can some one give me a link too the model plot?and is louisiana at risk from this?


too early to tell.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29934
1844. IKE
8:53 PM CDT on June 14, 2007
Look around 17.7N, 86.7W on that quikscat.
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1843. melwerle
1:50 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
ok Storm - just checked. You got MY attention. Do you think this is a possibility or just speculation right now?
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1842. Bamatracker
1:52 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
Kman where is the link at for the quikstat....the quikstat page still hasnt updated.
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1841. thelmores
1:50 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
kman, look up! LOL


Posted By: Caymanite at 1:40 AM GMT on June 15, 2007.

http://manati.orbit.nesdis.noaa.gov/dataimages21/cur_hires/zooms/WMBas76.png
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1840. StormThug
8:49 PM CDT on June 14, 2007
can some one give me a link too the model plot?and is louisiana at risk from this?
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1838. kmanislander
1:49 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
Thel

What I see there so far is all straight line winds basically from the E but would like to see further North
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1837. melwerle
1:48 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
hey stormw - i sail with lightning on regattas...my skipper down in st. pete. Trying to hook him up with the weather blog...
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1836. thelmores
1:49 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
hey Bama.....




LOL
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1834. kmanislander
1:46 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
Thel

where did you get that image?
my link has not yet posted it
Do you have a spread for the area all the way to Cozumel ?
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1833. IKE
8:45 PM CDT on June 14, 2007
Infrared loop of the Caribbean w/the NCEP fronts clicked shows a 1008mb low east of Belize. That quikscat kind of confirms it.
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1832. Drakoen
1:44 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
Ernesto is a good example. when the first model runs where done, the models had ernesto hitting the Gulf coast. a few days Later models suggest a south Florida landfall. Quite dramatic if you ask me.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29934
1831. Bamatracker
1:43 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
Posted By: thelmores at 1:40 AM GMT on June 15, 2007.

"me and jp said invest by tonight looky here..."

LOL

I said it at 8am this morning!


yeah, well I said it at 755am!!! LOL!
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1830. thelmores
1:40 AM GMT on June 15, 2007


thanks kman! :)

you have had time to study it, your thoughts??
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1829. melwerle
1:42 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
hey lightning - good to see you - i think we have met - glad you joined us here.
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1828. Drakoen
1:41 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
Posted By: HCW at 1:39 AM GMT on June 15, 2007.

Looks like a panhandle Storm / Central gulfcoast strike if the models are correct :) Almost perfect

I would not trust that model consensus since it is only the first run and the current motion of the low suggest a more NE movement. Models have a tendency to have a dramatic change in the future runs.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29934
1827. Drakoen
1:40 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
Posted By: ClearH2OFla at 1:39 AM GMT on June 15, 2007.

Saw that right as i was leaving work about an hour ago have any new models come out to support or deny the early runs at central florida for the second blob

we are waiting for the GFDL probably at 11:00pm this isd probably the only model i will go by as of now.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29934
1826. thelmores
1:34 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
"me and jp said invest by tonight looky here..."

LOL

I said it at 8am this morning!
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1825. Caymanite
1:38 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
http://manati.orbit.nesdis.noaa.gov/dataimages21/cur_hires/zooms/WMBas76.png
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1824. HCW
1:37 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
Looks like a panhandle Storm / Central gulfcoast strike if the models are correct :) Almost perfect

Link
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1823. ClearH2OFla
9:38 PM EDT on June 14, 2007
Saw that right as i was leaving work about an hour ago have any new models come out to support or deny the early runs at central florida for the second blob
1822. Drakoen
1:35 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
Posted By: ClearH2OFla at 1:35 AM GMT on June 15, 2007.

Hey drak back at home anything new

if you haven't heard we have 94L the low is just north of the island of Roatan, honduras. On the satellite imagery we can see the outflow of the system as well the the strong upper level winds (which are forecasted to be less hostile to allow for some development)
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29934
1821. groundman
1:24 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
Posted By: HurricaneFCast at 12:55 AM GMT on June 15, 2007.
Well, I've got to go for the night, I'll be on tomorrow at some point.. =D
Hang in there and keep predicting!! It works well to have several different Points of view on a subject.. Great work Everyone!!


What I have been trying to say, I'm sure we are not even close to as fast as the "official" channels but this blog seems to know what is going on well before the channels let it be known to the general public.

Pat selves on back now, do not break arms while doing so though. LOL
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1820. IKE
8:34 PM CDT on June 14, 2007
Posted By: Miamiweather at 8:31 PM CDT on June 14, 2007.
what does that mean ike that the ull is moving to the east with regards to where this system is going


It shouldn't be in the way to shear 94L or inhibit any intensification.
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1819. WPBHurricane05
9:34 PM EDT on June 14, 2007
should be about 11pm for the first GFDL run I would think.

Well forget this, no amount of coffee will let me stay up that late.
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1818. Littleninjagrl
1:35 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
hello lightning15054
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1817. ClearH2OFla
9:34 PM EDT on June 14, 2007
Hey drak back at home anything new
1816. lightning15054
1:34 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
I am new to this blog....hi there everyone....hi melwerle
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1815. thelmores
1:32 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
those wanting to know details of "where"..... I would suggest waiting for the first GFDL run on 94L.....

should be about 11pm for the first GFDL run I would think.

Between the quickscat and GFDL we should have more clues as to 94L's fate......
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1814. Tazmanian
6:33 PM PDT on June 14, 2007
yes i do WPBHurricane05
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114776
1813. Drakoen
1:33 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
me and jp said invest by tonight looky here...
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29934
1812. WPBHurricane05
9:33 PM EDT on June 14, 2007
Still 80 here in West Palm, Florida......
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1811. Drakoen
1:32 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
I would wait for dinural max then we can see how much convection this system can get and after how much it can sustain.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29934
1810. whirlwind
1:28 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
There has been alot of development and lots of possibilities of early storms. Pleanty of juicy heat in the GOM. Unfortunetly, wind shear has destroyed or at least has very limited formation of storms. That will change....'07 will be a year to remember.

This season has good aim...the GOM...but right now shooting empty shells
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1809. WPBHurricane05
9:31 PM EDT on June 14, 2007
Don't you hate it when that happens Taz......
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1808. Drakoen
1:31 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
Posted By: jphurricane2006 at 1:31 AM GMT on June 15, 2007.

Barometer Bob just explained that the low on the east coast will block this system from moving north

steering is weak and it could just sit and spin in the NW caribbean for the rain

yea thats what i am saying.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29934
1806. Miamiweather
1:29 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
what does that mean ike that the ull is moving to the east with regards to where this system is going
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1805. WPBHurricane05
9:30 PM EDT on June 14, 2007
With the pressure dropping it is possible to see some convection activity.
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1804. Drakoen
1:29 AM GMT on June 15, 2007
Posted By: Chicklit at 1:21 AM GMT on June 15, 2007.

Link
GOM, Florida and the Western Caribbean.
Is that mass of showers coming behind the dry air going to knock out the trough?

you can't buy the immediate forecast i suggest waiting till it is in the Gulf of mexico.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29934
1803. Tazmanian
6:27 PM PDT on June 14, 2007
sorry : Drakoen did not hit the right one i hit the ! on your post wish i mean to do it to unctarheel1209 post but evere thing fix now Drakoen i hit the right one
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114776

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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.