F5: a book review

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:28 PM GMT en Junio 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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1453. IKE
4:09 PM CDT on June 14, 2007
Where do you live Drakoen?

I'll guess south Florida?
Member Since: Junio 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
1452. Drakoen
9:08 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
i meant to say the east side as well.
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1451. Thundercloud01221991
9:08 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
RIGHT FRONT QUADRANT just that

N - NW
S - SE
E - SW
W - NW

get it now
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1449. 4Gaia
9:00 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Alan sealls is a great guy!
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1447. Drakoen
9:07 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Posted By: jphurricane2006 at 9:06 PM GMT on June 14, 2007.

its also moving north Drakoen

yes i know that.
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1446. Joshfsu123
9:06 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
nothing is there... rain-maker at best.
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1445. Thundercloud01221991
9:03 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Pressure continues to drop interesting to see what happens tonight

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1444. Drakoen
9:05 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Posted By: ForecasterColby at 9:05 PM GMT on June 14, 2007.

Drakoen, the strongest winds in a hurricane occur on the right front side. This is because the winds of a storm are not just generated by rotation, but also by the motion of the storm. A minimal hurricane moving 10mph is actually only spinning at 64 - the other 10 are being added from the storm's motion at the right front.

exactly. This whole discussion started when i said that the heaviest rain fall and winds would be South of the system. a system moving to the East or NE will have its strongest winds on the South side.
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1443. Bamatracker
9:04 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
in a NE travelling storm it would be the quadrant from 45 degrees to 135 degree if the storm was put on an axis with N being 0 degree.

Clear as mud i know.
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1441. Drakoen
9:04 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
exactly if it is moving east and i am talking about this system moving to the NE from the Caribbean so whats your point.
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1439. ForecasterColby
8:57 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Drakoen, the strongest winds in a hurricane occur on the right front side. This is because the winds of a storm are not just generated by rotation, but also by the motion of the storm. A minimal hurricane moving 10mph is actually only spinning at 64 - the other 10 are being added from the storm's motion at the right front.
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1438. Littleninjagrl
9:00 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Posted By: Drakoen at 8:54 PM GMT on June 14, 2007.

sigh whatever i can't be bothered.


I'm really sorry but if you can't be bothered with us little people that don't know anything then maybe you should find a blog where everybody knows everything just like you. I don't normally argue online because well....that's retarded! but you really struck a cord with me on that one.
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1437. ClearH2OFla
4:59 PM EDT on June 14, 2007
whats the latest at work just popping in
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1436. Bamatracker
9:03 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
PBG...once again i think that has to do with the foward right section of the storm more so than the actual side of the compass
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1434. Drakoen
9:02 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
and Wilma had a NE movement. and Barry had NNE.
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1433. PBG00
9:02 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
oops..spoke too soon
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1432. Bamatracker
9:00 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Just stating facts. I only say what I can prove. Unless i say its my opinion.

Link

Barry rainfall totals
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1431. PBG00
9:01 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Sammy..people don't always have to agree, that is how we learn. I think it's pretty civil in here compared to most days!
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1430. Drakoen
9:01 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
you read it carefully.
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1429. PBG00
9:00 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Isn't the northeast quadrant also tornadic?
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1427. Drakoen
8:59 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
thank you Bama. you just proved what i ahve been trying to say.
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1426. Drakoen
8:58 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
here is proof JP lol.this is from the link Bamaposted.

The worst wind of a hurricane are in the northeast quadrant.
This is true only if the storm is moving north. It is more correct to say the worst wind is in the forward right quadrant. In other words, it depends upon which way the storm is moving. For a hurricane traveling westward the strongest wind is the northwest quadrant. If it is going east then the strongest wind is in the southeast quadrant. As storms curve the location of the strongest winds shifts.

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1424. Bamatracker
8:57 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
The worst wind of a hurricane are in the northeast quadrant.
This is true only if the storm is moving north. It is more correct to say the worst wind is in the forward right quadrant. In other words, it depends upon which way the storm is moving. For a hurricane traveling westward the strongest wind is the northwest quadrant. If it is going east then the strongest wind is in the southeast quadrant. As storms curve the location of the strongest winds shifts.


Excerpt from the link I just posted
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1423. Drakoen
8:57 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
no it did not i'm telling you man. I live in West Palm Beach and rain fall totals where upwards of 7 in.
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1422. PBG00
8:55 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Wilma traveled on an angle...and the eye was big, sucked no matter what side you were on.
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1420. Bamatracker
8:54 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Link

This link is for some common hurricane myths. It was compiled by a local news station here in Mobile. The meteorologist of this station double as the professors of Meteorology at the University of South Alabama so these are some reliable tips.

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1419. Drakoen
8:54 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
stormjunkie i provided 2 examples. Wilma and Barry.
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1417. Drakoen
8:53 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
sigh whatever i can't be bothered.
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1416. Bamatracker
8:51 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
I wouldnt call this an arguement...more of an educated debate. No name calling has happened...lol!
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1414. StormJunkie
8:49 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
which is on the South side with systems coming from the GOM.

This is a false statement Drak. You need to provide more concrete data to support this if you expect anyone to buy it, not a one storm reference.
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1413. Drakoen
8:49 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Posted By: StormJunkie at 8:48 PM GMT on June 14, 2007.

Drak, the southern eye wall may have been the strongest on the S side of Wilma, but the N portion of the storm had the largest wind field and the most moisture overall.

I am out y'all. See ya in a couple of days

Quick Links

exactly the south side of Wilma was the strongest.
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1412. Bamatracker
8:48 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Posted By: jphurricane2006 at 8:48 PM GMT on June 14, 2007.

ok then where were the worst winds with Charley?


south of Punta Gorda?

no they were north of there in the northern eyewall, i have friends there who could prove that

every storm is different


This is very true JP....I 100% agree. You really can not make a blanket statement saying one way is the rule....but the important thing to remember is the front right quadrant is the most deadliest in most cases.
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1410. Drakoen
8:48 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
jp i really don't want to get into this with you so lets both drop it for the sake of this blog.
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1409. melwerle
8:44 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
geezz....what the heck are we arguing about NOW? I'm outta here for the night- the arguing is getting stupid. Although - I do want to take the time to thank StormW, JP, H23, SJ, kman for teaching me, ever so patiently, basic metereology. You have taught me a bunch and I appreciate your enthusiasm and extensive knowledge which you were so willing to share and even answer my most IDIOTIC questions. If more folks could model their behavior and answers after you, there would be alot less aggravation.

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1408. StormJunkie
8:46 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Drak, the southern eye wall may have been the strongest on the S side of Wilma, but the N portion of the storm had the largest wind field and the most moisture overall.

I am out y'all. See ya in a couple of days

Quick Links
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1407. Bamatracker
8:46 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
JP...the most intense storms and storm surge i always in the front right quadrant of a storm. Now the size of this area or the duration at a certain point of land may not be as long in this intense area but this is caused by the foward motion.

I know you know that but just wanted to post it for others who may not know.
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1404. Drakoen
8:45 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Posted By: Bamatracker at 8:44 PM GMT on June 14, 2007.

JP and drakeon i think you are talking about two differnt things. Drakeon you are talking about the most intense area of a storm. Jp you are talking about which side the most moisture is on. Congrats...your both right

no. the heaviest wind goes along with the heaviest rain. the only reason it seems that alot of rain fell over Central Florida is because it was getting shear on the northern side. Heaviest winds and heaviest rain go together. which is on the South side with systems coming from the GOM.
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1403. StormJunkie
8:44 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
77, the CMC is saying the same thing as the GFS. Two areas of energy. One quickly moves across S Fla, the other moves a little slower and a little further N. This one actually becomes fairly well defined once entering the Atl.
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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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