The Dust Bowl
What Was the Dust Bowl?
The Dust Bowl, also called the “Dirty Thirties,” was a time of crippling dust storms that greatly damaged the drought-stricken Southern Plains area of the United States during a dry period of the 1930s. The weather during this time stirred up dirt that caused massive zero visibility dust storms, covering everything in the storms’ path with dirt.
Dust Bowl – Farm with a huge dust storm about to engulf barn. Boise City, Oklahoma – April 15, 1935.
(Library of Congress / Dorothea Lange)
The drought hit the Southern Plains in three waves starting around 1930. Some parts of the region experienced drought conditions for as many as eight straight years. By 1934, the Great Plains had literally been turned into a desert area.
High winds caused choking dust storms that swept through massive areas from Texas to Nebraska. People and animals alike were killed and crops were covered by dust. As a result, most agricultural crops failed throughout the entire region. As the Dust Bowl gained momentum, the poor conditions intensified, eventually driving farming families by the thousands out of the affected areas in search of better living conditions.
Massive dust storm approaching Stratford, Texas – 1935. (NOAA George E. Marsh Album / Public Domain)
What Caused the Dust Bowl?
The Dust Bowl was caused by a combination of severe drought and farming methods that increased wind erosion of the land. Farmers settling in the Great Plains from the Eastern United States used extensive deep plowing methods. These farming methods displaced the native, deep root plants and grasses of the area that traditionally trapped soil and water even throughout periods of excessive drought and wind.
When the first drought hit in 1930, the now unanchored topsoil turned to dust. When winds picked-up, this caused huge dust clouds that at times blackened the sky. These enormous dirt storms – dubbed “black blizzards” or “black rollers” – blew across the country, even reaching the East Coast hitting cities as far away as New York City and Washington, D.C.
Dust is too much for this farmer’s son in Cimarron County, Oklahoma – April 1936. (LOC.gov)
Dust Bowl Photos
Large dust storm approaching Spearman, Texas – April 14, 1935.
Dust storm ripping through a suburban area of Amarillo, Texas – April of 1936.
Farm land covered by sand after dust storm. Cimarron County, Oklahoma – April 1936.
Buried automobile and farm machinery in a barn lot. Dallas, South Dakota. May, 1936.
Car trying to outrun a massive dust storm in the Texas Panhandle – 1936.
This farmer converted the roof of a barn into a windbreak for his garden. Cimarron County, Oklahoma. April 1936.
Windmill and tank on an abandoned farm. Cimarron County, Oklahoma.
Dust Bowl – Buried farm machinery after dust storm. Cimarron County, Oklahoma – 1936.
Farmer and his two sons trying to escape the worst dust storm of the decade. Ulysses, Kansas – April of 1936.
Chickens trying to huddle together to shelter from blowing sand. Cimarron County, Oklahoma.
Results of a dust storm. Buried farm equipment and dust piled-up around barn. Cimarron County, Oklahoma – April 1936.
Dust bowl farmer raising his fence in an attempt to keep it from being buried under drifting sand – 1936.
Young son of a farmer in dust bowl area – Cimarron County, Oklahoma.
View of a badly blown area showing crops completely covered by dust and dirt. Cimarron County, Oklahoma – April 1936.
Removing drifts of dirt that are blocking the highways near Guymon, Oklahoma. March 1936.
Oklahoma Dust Bowl refugees reach San Fernando, California – June 1936.
Fighting the drought and dust with irrigation. Cimarron County, Oklahoma.
Dust Bowl – Squatter camp on county road near Calipatria, California – March 1937.
Years of Dust – Resettlement Administration poster.
Photos courtesy Library of Congress / Public Domain
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