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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1052. IKE
10:55 AM CDT on June 14, 2007
Winds are from the NNE in Cozumal,Mexico and NE in Cancun. Their west of the low. Seems about right.
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1051. Drakoen
3:52 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
My TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK: June 14th 2007 (based on my own analysis)
The Tropics remain quite as expected this time of the year. There is currently disorganized showers in the Carribean.Currently three models are showing development. They are : CMC, GFS, GFDL (from 2 days ago). While the GFDL has a broad low pressure i feel that this is only because the model run was from 2 days ago and given a run today if there was an invest would show a more defined low pressure system.The GFS shows the system getting picked up by the trough over the Southeast into Florida, which seems like the most likely scenario.The CMC has the system going to New Orlean. At the current time that solution seems unlikely because of the trough over the Southeast. The CMC has the high pressure building over florida keeping the system away.
I feel that the UKMET AND THE NOGAPS model are not showing develop because there is an upper level low moving into the Caribbean which would inhibit any tropical cyclone develpment.
Currently some of the moisture in the Caribbean is from upper level diffluence from an upper level low. Whether things spin up at the surface still remains to be seen.Models are usually trusted 5 days out at most so this an area to keep an eye out for.
Member Since: Octubre 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30615
1049. Drakoen
3:50 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
its in my blog but i will post it here
Member Since: Octubre 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30615
1048. cantoriesnumber1fan
3:46 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Anyone can report obscene posts to their local law enforcement agency and they can be traced to the user's IP address. I would be mighty careful how you post.
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1047. stormybil
3:50 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
will this new system in the caribiean be a invest latter on today . thanks
1046. littlefish
3:46 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Don't we need 30 degrees Celsius to maintain tropical systems? I see the loop current is looking to be present in the GOM again this season. No doubt Dr Masters will hit on that in his Friday prognosis. Anybody know what the African dust scenarios look like this year? That ULH in the middle of Caribb might help slowly develop the choppiness in the W Caribb. But it looks very disorganized right now.
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1044. ClearH2OFla
11:45 AM EDT on June 14, 2007
Drak, ready for my morning update can you email me ? Not here but my work email
1043. HurricaneFCast
3:46 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Ike- Lol.. don't answer the "What's an F bomb"

Spare us all please =D
Member Since: Abril 20, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 1482
1042. HurricaneFCast
3:44 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
He was saying NO needed another strong hurricane to hit them.

I'm only speculating on him dropping F bombs. Seems like he would do it..to me.



Oh, well, see that's not right "Eh-Row" you can't be wishing people to be devastated by a Natural Disaster...
Member Since: Abril 20, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 1482
1041. IKE
10:45 AM CDT on June 14, 2007
Posted By: hurricanearough at 10:44 AM CDT on June 14, 2007.
What's an F bomb?


LOL.
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1038. IKE
10:42 AM CDT on June 14, 2007
Posted By: HurricaneFCast at 10:42 AM CDT on June 14, 2007.
You're asking the impossible. If this system doesn't develop he'll be dropping F bombs all over Dr. Masters blog.

Lol.. Is that what he did?


He was saying NO needed another strong hurricane to hit them.

I'm only speculating on him dropping F bombs. Seems like he would do it..to me.
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1037. JupiterFarmer
3:43 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
here are a couple of 'eyes' for you guys. cool 'cloud' picture...

Link
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1036. HurricaneFCast
3:42 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
WPB- Lol, Forget Charlie, We're probably looking at a Nasty Cat 5 again this year, And the worst part, you said it, warm SST's near the coast... That could lead to an actual LANDFALL by a Cat 5.. Which hardly ever happens because they reach peak intensity over the central GOM or the ocean, never right when they make landfall.. So.. We'll just have to keep track of SST's but these are certainly warm for June.
Member Since: Abril 20, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 1482
1035. StormHype
3:40 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

... and be sure to use a good lube to prevent severe blisters on your hand as well. lol
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1034. Drakoen
3:41 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Posted By: IKE at 3:40 PM GMT on June 14, 2007.

Posted By: WPBHurricane05 at 10:39 AM CDT on June 14, 2007.
*Sigh* Yeah, Masters just banned my 4th account so hey, I am back.

Maybe if you behave, you can have another chance....


You're asking the impossible. If this system doesn't develop he'll be dropping F bombs all over Dr. Masters blog.

agreed.
Member Since: Octubre 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30615
1032. WPBHurricane05
11:39 AM EDT on June 14, 2007
Interesting.. Updated SST's VERY Interesting..
June 13th, 2005 (Of course we had an insanely active year with well above normal SST's in 2005) These are extremely warm GOM SST's for June, June 13th 2005:


The worst part is that it gets warmer along the coast. Hate to say it but there maybe a Charlie like hurricane that enters the GOM.
Member Since: Julio 31, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 8112
1031. HurricaneFCast
3:41 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
You're asking the impossible. If this system doesn't develop he'll be dropping F bombs all over Dr. Masters blog.

Lol.. Is that what he did?
Member Since: Abril 20, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 1482
1030. IKE
10:39 AM CDT on June 14, 2007
Posted By: WPBHurricane05 at 10:39 AM CDT on June 14, 2007.
*Sigh* Yeah, Masters just banned my 4th account so hey, I am back.

Maybe if you behave, you can have another chance....


You're asking the impossible. If this system doesn't develop he'll be dropping F bombs all over Dr. Masters blog.
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1029. fldoughboy
3:36 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
All we can do is wait , if in fact it becomes an invest or better. Wish it would hit the big bend area of Florida. We need more rain. Only 3 inches for the month so far.
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1028. WPBHurricane05
11:38 AM EDT on June 14, 2007
*Sigh* Yeah, Masters just banned my 4th account so hey, I am back.

Maybe if you behave, you can have another chance....
Member Since: Julio 31, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 8112
1026. IKE
10:38 AM CDT on June 14, 2007
Dr. Masters said...

"The tropics are quiet, and the models are forecasting conditions will remain quiet into next week."........

OOPS!
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1025. Drakoen
3:37 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
there are so many vorticis associated with this blob it is becoming difficult to tell.
Member Since: Octubre 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30615
1024. HurricaneFCast
3:37 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Posted By: StormW at 3:31 PM GMT on June 14, 2007.

HurricaneFCast,
Got it too! Nice drawing on the satellite image.


Thanks StormW!! Appreciate it.
Member Since: Abril 20, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 1482
1023. HurricaneFCast
3:37 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Interesting.. Updated SST's VERY Interesting..
June 13th, 2005 (Of course we had an insanely active year with well above normal SST's in 2005) These are extremely warm GOM SST's for June, June 13th 2005:
a
As you can see SST's are still way above normal for June in the GOM, But now let's take a look at June 13th, 2007:
a
Member Since: Abril 20, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 1482
1020. kmanislander
3:33 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Storm

What I said was that you were right on there being no surface low ( QS confirms this ) and secondly the low that is forecasted to form in the Yucatan channel is apparenly already there. The Quikscat from this morning did not show a surface low in the channel which means that it is either not yet at the surface as we write or has started to spin up at the surface after the pass.
Member Since: Agosto 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15863
1019. IKE
10:35 AM CDT on June 14, 2007
Posted By: Drakoen at 10:34 AM CDT on June 14, 2007.
Posted By: fldoughboy at 3:32 PM GMT on June 14, 2007.

It doesn't look like the Carribean blob will develop it wind shear is present, looks like the cloud tops are blowing to the Northeast from the picture shown.

FLdoughboy the shear is expected to relax somewhat to enable marginal developnment.


True...look at the shear maps on WU...by tomorrow it's suppose to be somewhat favorable in the SE GOM.
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1018. WPBHurricane05
11:33 AM EDT on June 14, 2007
hurricanearough-You wouldn't happen to be aroughleague........
Member Since: Julio 31, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 8112
1016. Drakoen
3:34 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Posted By: hurricanearough at 3:34 PM GMT on June 14, 2007.

If it does develop...the most it could become is an invest.

It will go east of due north and hit the Panhandle of Florida, IMO

sigh
Member Since: Octubre 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30615
1015. Drakoen
3:33 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Posted By: fldoughboy at 3:32 PM GMT on June 14, 2007.

It doesn't look like the Carribean blob will develop it wind shear is present, looks like the cloud tops are blowing to the Northeast from the picture shown.

FLdoughboy the shear is expected to relax somewhat to enable marginal developnment.
Member Since: Octubre 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30615
1013. Miamiweather
3:32 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
thanks and as of now where do you think it is going to go
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1012. HurricaneFCast
3:31 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
hehe i have only been saying it for the past 2 hours on here. the outflow and the motion indicated by the satellite loop suggests this.

You notice the outflow as well? You view the vis loop and notice the center remains nearly still, suggesting circulation around it, as well as rotation by lower clouds and clouds above the center.. I do agree we should keep an eye on this one. Finally something to watch :)
Member Since: Abril 20, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 1482
1011. WPBHurricane05
11:31 AM EDT on June 14, 2007
Crazy storm off the NE coast. Link
Member Since: Julio 31, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 8112
1010. fldoughboy
3:28 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
It doesn't look like the Carribean blob will develop it wind shear is present, looks like the cloud tops are blowing to the Northeast from the picture shown.
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1008. chilliam
3:32 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
I found myself skipping over some sections. The book also introduced too many characters to follow, and I got confused about who was whom.

Perhaps your confusion stems from the fact that you skipped sections. Just a thought...
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1007. Drakoen
3:31 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
i hope it becomes an invest so we can see where the GFDL takes it.
Member Since: Octubre 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30615
1005. HurricaneFCast
3:30 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Posted By: Drakoen at 3:29 PM GMT on June 14, 2007.

Miamiweather, i am gonna be conserative and say the most it could become is a strong tropical storm.



I agree with you Drakoen, There certainly is warm enough SST's, but shear is forecast to remain unfavorable in the Northern GOM and Eastern GOM over the next 5 days.
Member Since: Abril 20, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 1482
1004. Drakoen
3:29 PM GMT on June 14, 2007
Posted By: HurricaneFCast at 3:29 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 suggesting the low.


Thank You Drakoen! Glad someone else sees it.. =D

hehe i have only been saying it for the past 2 hours on here. the outflow and the motion indicated by the satellite loop suggests this.
Member Since: Octubre 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30615

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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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