From WereHistory.org by Mark F. Fernadez
Just over eighty-three years ago, on April 14, 1935, residents of the Great Plains woke up to clear skies. As they headed to church on that Palm Sunday, they enjoyed fresh air and a respite from the complications that the storms known as “dusters” had brought to their streets, businesses, and homes repeatedly during the previous months. The pristine air that morning meant that no one needed to wear goggles or facial masks, something that had become commonplace thanks to the winds that often picked up and coated the plains with the exhausted tawny dirt created by fifty years of aggressive farming, cattle and sheep ranching, and what the residents themselves embraced as a way of “breaking the land” to extract every bit of profit it could produce. Compounded by an extended period of extreme high temperatures and drought, the human activities had begun reducing a once thriving region into a bowl of dust. And despite how the day had started, the conditions for one of the most terrifying events in American history were beginning to gather.
The clear morning soon began to deteriorate as hundred-mile-per-hour winds began sweeping across the northern plains. Stirred up by confluence of a stationary high-pressure system and a cold front diving down from Alaska, temperatures plunged and residents began to brace themselves for the effects of yet another duster blowing through. The menace of the dust storms was all too familiar to Americans throughout the plains during the decade they dubbed the “dirty thirties,” the darkening skies presaging the spread of dust across their streets and fields. The dust even invaded their homes, requiring frequent sweeping and sanitation. Visibility at the height of the storms could be limited to a single foot, and the dust accumulated in the eyes and lungs, spawning a host of health problems, such as “Dust Pneumonia,” that resisted most remedies.
Categories: United States History