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

3.9  ·  Rating details ·  286 Ratings  ·  63 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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Aug 15, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A historical look at the Super Outbreak of tornadoes that hit the south/mid-west on April 3, 1974 as seen through the eyes of those living in Limestone County, Alabama.

The story is choppy, with many different people profiled from just prior to the thunderstorms through to the recovery and clean up phases of the storm. It is really hard in the beginning 25% of this book to keep everyone straight in the reader's head. There is a great story here, but too much excess on politics, the end of Vietna
Jul 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Shay Caroline
Nov 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, weather
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
Apr 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2010
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
Feb 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
A very basic and to the point account of the "super outbreak" of April 3-4, 1974. The book concentrates primarily on Limestone county, Alabama. After a short history about the area and some of its residents the book is almost entirely about the tornados and damage. Then has a brief aftermath. Never going into intricate detail but giving enough to give you a good idea while keeping the names and places easy to follow. A good account of events. This was a story that could have gotten bogged down w ...more
Jennifer Wardrip
May 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 10, 2010 rated it liked it
A really great book shows us how everything is great and worth to die for
Sep 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'd give this book 4.5 if I could. I reserve a 5 for a book that I think is an absolute must read. I must state that I am fascinated by tornados so that likely adds to my enjoyment of this tale. At the time of the events of this book I was 12 and living in Ohio. I remember the events in Xenia very well, my brother was dispatched there as part of the Ohio National Guard. I loved hearing the in depth stories of families that were impacted by these events, often with tragic results. In those days t ...more
Aug 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
An excellent time capsule-like view of the Super Outbreak of '74. Levine weaves threads of individual's and family's lives together with the socio-political climate of the time in rural Alabama and the advances of Fujita to create a tapestry that fully illustrates the multi-faceted effects of this phenomenon.
To give a you an idea of the subtle difference between an F4-rated and F5-rated tornado (today the ratings are calculated slightly differently under the enhanced Fujita, or EF scale, btw), the first will completely level the most well-built home and leave some traces of its material on the foundation. The F5 adds that extra kicker of sweeping away every shred of the building from the foundation. Not much consolation in those differences for the homeowner, if, indeed, said homeowner managed to li ...more
Kelley E Bosley
Sep 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
A good,quick read. Loved the personal stories. Made the tornadoes impact more real.
Mia Lucia Manifold
Jul 31, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Mark Jordan
Jul 15, 2016 rated it liked it
There's a great 150 page book here. Unfortunately, the full text is about 300 pages. Whether it was author Mark Levine's desire to flesh out the picture or the publisher's mandate to flesh out the size of the book, Levine's vivid narrative--based on interviews with survivors--of the insane multiple-tornado night of April 3, 1974 in Limestone County, Alabama, is bogged down by frequent asides discussing the history of weather forecasting, the structure of severe storms, the politics of the day, a ...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 rated it liked it
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
Bruce Nieminski
Oct 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
276 pages

Real life account of one of the deadliest tornado outbreaks in American History. Over 140 tornadoes ripped apart a vast section of the nation's heartland in April, 1974. This account focuses on an F4 and F5 combo that ravaged Limestone, Alabama. Told by people who witnessed it firsthand and survived, Levine intersperses details of the famous twisters with pop culture references of the crazy year of '74.
People that know me know I love tornadoes despite the devastation and tragedy th
Aug 07, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
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
Oct 10, 2007 rated it liked it
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
Feb 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Zora by: Disaster group here at goodreads
Shelves: weather
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
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
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.
Jan 16, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
This book walks you through April 3,1974 when 148 tornadoes covering thirteen states killed hundreds and injured thousands of people. Six of them were a category F5.
I wanted to like this book. I am fascinated by storm stories of survival and destruction. This book is all over the place with information and does a horrible job of sticking to the subject. Goes off on a tangent about things that have nothing to do with the story he is telling. I would have like a better time line. It would have gi
Sep 24, 2007 rated it liked it
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
Dec 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jan 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
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.
Mar 22, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Jul 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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.
Feb 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"F5" vividly brings to life the events of April 3-4, 1974, when the worst tornado outbreak of the 20th Century spawned 148 twisters across 13 states and killed over 300 people. Levine focuses on Limestone County in Alabama, which was hit with two tornados in one night. His book spotlights the horror and heroism that followed the catastrophic events of that time, in a gripping narrative that makes this book hard to put down. An excellent, frightening book.
Mar 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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.)
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Mark Levine is the author of four books of poetry: Debt (1993), Enola Gay (2000), The Wilds (2006), and Travels of Marco (2016). His poetry has appeared in a number of anthologies, including American Poets in the Twenty-First Century: The New Poetics (2007) and American Hybrid (2009), among others. His work of nonfiction, F5: Devastation, Survival, and the Most Violent Tornado Outbreak of the 20th
More about Mark Levine...