The Dust Bowl
From 1934 to 1940 severe drought ravaged an area twice the size of Pennsylvania
covering parts of Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Colorado. When the
drought destroyed the crops, there was nothing to hold the soil of the wind-swept
and treeless plains. The area became known as "The Dust Bowl."
By 1935, winds reaching 60 miles per hour whipped the dirt into gigantic clouds
as high as 1,000 feet blocking the sun. Dust reached the president's desk in
Washington and even reported by ships 500 miles out to sea. Storms blanketed
highways in impenetrable clouds of swirling dust stranding motorists. With
the land literally blown away, farmers left the area. By the end of the decade
almost half the population, an estimated 300,000 from Oklahoma alone, migrated.
Most headed to California in hopes of finding work and a better life. John
Steinbeck immortalized the hardships and misery of these "Okies" in his 1939
novel "The Grapes of Wrath."
|A father and his 2 sons seek
refuge from a dust storm
Cimarron County, OK 1936
The federal government moved to reclaim the land by strategically planting trees throughout the area that reduced the effect of the wind and by promoting scientific farming methods. The effort was successful. When the drought ended in 1940, the land could successfully be farmed again.
How To Cite This Article:
"The Dust Bowl," EyeWitness to History, www.eyewitnesstohistory.com (2000).