Americans View Their Dust Bowl Experience

By John R. Wunder; Frances W. Kaye et al. | Go to book overview
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DROUGHT, HEAT WAVES, AND DUST STORMS
FROM THE GREAT PLAINS, 1934—1936

In late April 1931, a combination of unusual factors resulted in a great dust storm that enveloped much of Oregon and Washington and even carried dust out over the Pacific Ocean so thick that one ship's captain reported “visibility so low it necessitated navigation as in fog.” Local newspapers reported on the vast damage done by the storm, and the Monthly Weather Review (May 1931), published by the U.S. Weather Bureau, gave a full report with pictures. Still, the rest of the nation paid scant attention. Weather charts would later show that a dry cycle began in the Great Plains and the Midwest in 1930, but farmers, politicians, and newspapers seemed far too preoccupied with other serious matters to give much sustained attention to the weather in 1932 and 1933. But the great dust storm in early May 1934 that spread from the Plains to Washington, D.C., and New York and then far out over the Atlantic Ocean changed that thinking.

The years 1934, 1935, and 1936 were marked by drought, intense heat, and dust storms in both summer and winter. From 1934, when it published an article on the great dust storm of that May, to 1937, the Monthly Weather Review reported fairly extensively on heat, drought, and dust storms with an occasional piece on brown snow storms. In February 1935, the publication carried an article that summed up, with clinical detachment, the data on the dust storms that had occurred between November 1933 and May 1934. “Dust storms, the report stated, “cause much discomfort to human beings and animals through inhalation of the drifting particles, and also deposit much dirt generally. Their major damage, however, is the removal of productive topsoil from agricultural regions, however much

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