F5: The Devastating Tornado Outbreak of 1974
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F5: The Devastating Tornado Outbreak of 1974

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  191 ratings  ·  44 reviews
On April 3, 1974, all hell broke loose in the central United States and southern Ontario. In the next 40 hours of the "Super Outbreak," 148 record-breaking tornadoes tore through 13 states, from Michigan to Alabama. The twisters killed more than 300 people and left over 5,000 others injured. F5 recounts the nearly unbelievable destruction wrought by a "perfect storm" syste...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published June 6th 2007 by Miramax (first published 2007)
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As an adult, I have come to realize that I have a love for real-life disaster documentaries, especially ones that pit humans against Mother Nature. Humanity always has a reputation for extreme hubris, a quality that Nature tends to destroy in single, dramatic swoops.

F5 is about a set of vicious tornadoes and the Fujita scale, a scale recently adopted in the early 70s. Just as it was being considered, one of the most ugly super-cells hit mid-America, spawning own 100 tornadoes in less than 2 day...more
Having grown up in Limestone county, it was fascinating to read this account of the tornado outbreak. Fortunately my immediate family did not move there until 1976, but I grew up in the shadow of this terrible storm as my great aunt and great uncle and cousins were seriously injured during the course of these events when their house in East Limestone was demolished with them in it.

Several people I know were featured in this book- including Brother Fred Lackey, who was my pastor for 16 years, Ja...more
Shay Caroline
F5 is the story of the April 3-4, 1974 "super outbreak" of tornadoes which spanned from Alabama to Ontario and from Illinois to Virginia. In 17 hours time, a staggering 148 tornadoes appeared, including two killer twisters which hit Limestone County, Alabama, the focal point of Levine's book.

The title derives from the Fujita scale (now the Enhanced Fujita Scale) which categorizes tornadoes into any of six groups, from the F-0, which might topple your patio furniture, to the terrifying might of a...more
Jennifer Wardrip
F5 is a really good non-fiction book that reads like the best type of fiction -- action, adventure, thriller, family drama. It's the true-life accounts of what many people lived through in April 1974, when the US suffered the deadliest outbreaks of tornadoes on record.

I read this book in a day, mostly because I didn't want to stop reading once I had started. Mark Levine has truly done his research, but he's written the story of these tornadoes in a way that never seems overbearing or gets so bog...more
This is a fascinating story about the devasting series of tornadoes that shattered the south during April, 1974. Focusing primarily on the devastion and damage that occured in the small town of Limestone, Alabama, and the surrounding area, this book brings the reality of severe storms and tornadoes to life. Levine begins by introducing main participants and survivors of the storms. You know their lives and personal stories before the storms arrive to change their homes, lives aand dreams forever...more
Feb 04, 2014 Zora rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Zora by: Disaster group here at goodreads
Another page turner of a NF disaster book. This follows a dozen residents of one town in the superoutbreak of 1974. The first part of the book gives us the background of the people and cultural context (Nixon, streaking, Hank Aaron), tornado science, and the second half has us in the tornadoes--an F5 and F4, and that part is vivid and thrilling and horrible, with just the right level of honest descriptions of the horror, blood, guts, and of the mental health cost to the survivors in the short an...more
A really great book shows us how everything is great and worth to die for
Mia Lucia Manifold
At times this book is in total control of the reader. Gentle readers may feel overwhelmed , readers that are shock proof will be deeply engaged , and all readers will at some point feel the book nudge, or shove them into a new understanding of nature's power ability to change lives.. At times this book becomes so tangled in its many threads that the reader may not successfully shift their focus.Then it is like watching television when someone else has control of the remote and you find yourself...more
Bookmarks Magazine

A surprising three-quarters of the world's tornadoes touch down in the United States, making them as American as, well, apple pie. Mark Levine examines this phenomenon in the context of a single, historic night, bringing the devastation vibrantly to life through the stories of the people who lived through it. Levine's strength is definitely the human element: while the personal narratives are gripping, F5 generally lacks comprehensive scientific explanations and details for the layman. A few cri

Oct 13, 2008 Catherine rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Catherine by: Megan
Shelves: 2008, mainstream-us
This is a very fun book, and forgive the turn of phrase, but it's a rip-roaring ride. It's not a particularly insightful book - the narrative of what happened in Levine's chosen county is very straight forward, a solid case of "this happened, then this happened, then this happened, then this happened." He very much relies on the details of the event being compelling in and of themself - there's little he adds by virtue of his writing style or organization. The best chapter of the book, for me, w...more
Steve Wiggins
Fewer things are frightening as a tornado. Levine does a good job reflecting the human costs involved in the Limestone tornadoes of 1974. See more at: Sects and Violence in the Ancient World.
The story of the tornado outbreak in 1974 that had about 148 twisters, including the one that hit Xenia, Ohio. The book's focus was on Limestone County, Alabama which suffered extensive damage,with many fatalities.

hearing levine's reading made me really want to read this book. i also thought it would be cool to see how he was able to weave a more technical and historical look at tornadoes in with the personal narratives. the book was gripping at times, but it was too choppy, and there were too many separate narratives. no one narrative was allowed to get told--instead they were cut up into bight-sized chunks and strung out through the whole book--really cut the thunder (excuse the pun). because there were...more
While this book wasn't the best historical novel I've ever read, it was decent in telling the story of Limestone Alabama and the devastating tornado outbreak of the early 1970s.

There is a large cast of characters, and it is often difficult to keep them straight. The author tries to make small comments on the existence of racism in the town, but doesn't delve into the situation in any satisfactory manner (an allusion is made that one person died as a result of racism, but the idea isn't fleshed...more
This book is about mark livine as a kid growing up where tornadoes are really common but this book talks about the huge F5 tornado. I like this book because it is an itrustion nonfiction book that doesnt bore me to death. I would reccamend this book to any one who likes tornadoes and the weather and want to learn more about it. I would not reccamend this book to people who hate the weather. This book warns about the signs of a tornado and funnel clouds and different types of weather. If i had to...more
Some incredible stories of people surviving tornados, and written in a bracing style. Impressive.
As a weather junkie, F5 was top of my list to read after reading the review in Bookslut. I agree with much of what that reviewer said--the weather information was fascinating, but it was difficult to keep track of the characters. Reading directly after reading Krakatoa simply illustrated how to write a historical, scientific account (Krakatoa) and how not to (F5).

However, the scope of the storm of 1974 was incredible, and even as a weather junkie, this book had information about tornados, super...more
Weather stuff was awesome. Ramblings about America in the 70s was less so.
I do remember this storm. I think that if you know where to look you can probably still pick out parts of its path through Cherokee County, North Carolina. Parts of this book are excellent, but it does tend to skip around from person to person, place to place and in time. And the barely-hidden political opinions jangle a bit much. It's OK to come right out and have an opinion, just don't keep sliding it in snidely. But still, overall, a good book and a valuable recording of a historical event.
It took me awhile to get into this book because being a weather fanatic I was more interested in the actual storm than the people. By the end of the book I was wrapped up in the peoples lives. I am studying to be a meteorologist and this book hit home why it is so important to continue to do research and warn people. It is hard to imagine the pain and suffering these people went through losing their homes, loved ones, and lives. It also is amazing what people can live through.
Sep 08, 2007 pianogal rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: weather fans
Shelves: weather, tornado
This book started off slow, with a lot of history of the political situation in the 70's. It did pick up the pace a litte, but in the end it just left me cold. With so many characters and the jumpy structure, it was hard to figure out who died and who survived. Plus, it only covered 2 of the 148 tornados that occurred on April 3, 1974. If you are only going to talk about a small amount, then don't give me so much background on the Super Outbreak as a whole.
I usually don't like to read an entire book written in the journalistic style, but Mr. Levine is brilliant! He doesn't just drag you into the events, he sends you running for cover along with the folks who lived through the events. I had to read it 3 times just to absorb it all, simply because of the way the book was set up. Start reading it and you'll see what I mean. (Of course, it helps if you're interested in this topic.)
I originally picked this one up at the library as a potential option for my son's nonfiction book report. He chose one of the others I brought home, so I thought I'd read it instead. I think the author tried to do too much here. He was all over the place, and I really had a hard time following along. I think there is potential for this type of book to be very interesting, but this one didn't do it for me.
Andrea Kepner
One of my favorite tornado books ever. Since my parents' house (and the house I grew up in) had an extremely close call with 2 of the tornadoes in the Super Outbreak, I've had this weird fascination with the Super Outbreak as long as I can remember, even when I was terrified of twisters. Having this book set so close to home (Limestone County, just a few miles to the west) made it all that much more gripping.
Jan 17, 2008 Eve rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: young adults, adults, Alabama history buffs, meterologists.
Whew! Growing up in Alabama I remember slightly the tornadoes of 1974, but I had no idea how terrifying they were. We lived in Huntsville during the tornado of 1989 and I recall the references at that time of the 1974 tornado. There have been other books about Xenia, Ohio, and how badly it was damaged the night of the tornadoes, but this is the first I have seen about Alabama. Definitely worth the read.
Julie Snow
Pretty interesting, but it wasn’t really my style of reading. The author continually jumped between individual accounts to create a whole account of one night’s outbreak of 148 tornados across the central United States. I will say this, I’ll never hear about another town being hit by a tornado without thinking more about the terror that those poor people lived through.
I started this book last night, historical account of a very bad week in 1974. So far something new that I have learned is that the Weather Service was BANNED from even saying Tornado until the 1960's because the officals were afraid that to even predict a tornado would cause mass hysteria...worse than warning people of a tornado coming.
Maria Kelly
Reads almost like a novel. Having witnessed the devastation of The Super Outbreak in Xenia, Ohio, I was anxious to read this account of the tornadoes that ripped through Alabama. Levine brings us right into the lives of the people who suffered, painfully at times. A good read for anyone, particularly weather geeks.
I'm a weather freak so I really enjoyed this book. I liked how the author mixed in a little fiction story with it to. I was in a tornado as a kid and twister is one of my favorite movies. I liked learning how they form, how they behave and how bad it could get. Mother nature is an amazing force.
About a town that was destroyed by many tornadoes. A few of them F5's. Also the resilience of people to put their lives together even after their lives were ripped apart. Some of their family members were killed during these storms.
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