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Great American Dust Bowl – Dale’s Daily Data

Effects of the Dust Bowl in Dallam County, Texas in 1938 (Getty Images)

You’ve probably heard of the Great American Dust Bowl.  It wiped out thousands of farming families from Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico forcing them to pull up stakes and head west to California where things weren’t too much better during the height of the depression. 

It was all the result of a bad set of circumstances that the farmers themselves had a role in.  Before the plains were settled it was hundreds and hundreds of miles of grassland, but farmers began to plow under those grasslands to create fields and with America’s entry into World War One it created a demand for wheat.  So farmers plowed under more and more grassland and gasoline tractors made the job even easier. 

But then a severe drought struck.  They didn’t have the technology for irrigating their fields back then.  They depended on rain, but when the rain didn’t come it killed the crops.  And because they had plowed under all those grasslands to create farming fields there was nothing to keep the soil in place.  Severe wind storms made things even worse, carrying millions of tons of soil in huge dust clouds from the midwest as far east as New York City, Boston and Atlanta.  Even ships 300 miles out in the Atlantic Ocean found dust on their decks.  The first of a series of severe wind storms in what became known as the Dust Bowl began on this date in 1934.

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