F-5: Devastation, Survival, and the Most Violent Tornado Outbreak of the Twentieth Century Hardcover – Jun 6 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
On April 3, 1974, a megastorm rampaged through the central U.S., unleashing at least 148 tornados, six of which attained the rare and overpowering "F5" category, with sustained winds of over 260 miles per hour. The storm killed hundreds and caused billions of dollars in property damage. Levine, a contributor to the New York Times, focuses on the impact in the rural county of Limestone, Ala., where dozens of tornados cut a ruinous swath across the land. A thorough journalist and accomplished stylist, Levine does an excellent job of putting us in the minds of the area natives—a high school freshman, the local sheriff, a power lineman—whose lives were upended, and in some cases, ended by the storm. Levine also has the descriptive prowess to bring the tornados to vivid existence on the page. However, at times the sheer number of characters and scenes makes the narrative difficult to follow. Levine is also less than successful in his attempt to link the storm to a particular zeitgeist of 1974 America; whatever happened that day, its consequences didn't expose the country in any manner similar to what Hurricane Katrina left in its wake. Still, it's hard to fault a disaster story as engaging as this. (June)
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Meaning no disrespect to this well-written and engaging book, but this would make one heckuva disaster movie. In April 1974, 148 tornadoes swept across 13 states, killing or wounding hundreds of people, destroying thousands of homes, and causing damage in the billions of dollars. Six of the twisters were of the deadliest variety, the rare category F5. Levine tells this often heartbreaking story by focusing not on the destruction (the way the movie Twister mostly did) but on the people (the way epic disaster movies like Earthquake did). The author spends a good-sized chunk of the book introducing the people whose lives would be drastically affected by these events, making us care about them, so that when disaster strikes we are caught up in the moment, experiencing almost firsthand the terror and devastation. Sure to appeal to fans of the growing genre of big-weather nonfiction. Pitt, David
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Most compelling, however, is Levine's ability to get inside the lives of more than a dozen people of Limestone County, Alabama who experienced a super outbreak of tornadoes on April 3, 1974. I marveled at his understanding of these unfortunate people. He must have spent countless hours interviewing them, most probably over many repeated visits. The book opens with an account of a couple of teen-agers who drive into the teeth of this killer storm. The immediacy of the authors prose puts you in the car with them, seeing what they see, feeling what they feel.
In F5, we know what these few experienced, what they lost, and the agony they suffered. We also learn how their lives were permanently altered by those brief, horrifying, and blurry moments in 1974. This is a book that I'll probably read a second time.
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