This Day In History: Great Plains Devastated by Dust Storm

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On May 11, 1934, the east coast was flooded by a dust storm that traveled all the way across the midwest and plummetted New York, Boston, and Atlanta.

When the Great Plains were settled in the mid-1800s, the land was mostly prairie grass, which kept the earth moist and prevented soil from blowing away during even the driest of months. However, after farmers overplowed the land, that plus a severe drought prevented any grass from growing. 

The number of dust storms increased from 14 in 1932 to 28 in 1933. The following year, the numbers dropped, but the storms' intensity increased, with the most severe storm occuring in May 1934. 

Over a period of two days, 350 million tons of silt were carried all the way across the Great Plains to the east coast. The New York Times reported "dust lodged itself in the eyes and throats of weeping and coughing New Yorkers and even ships some 300 miles offshore saw dust collect on their decks."

Many families in Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Kansas had to leave and move to California, and the move didn't find them a life that was any easier than the one they'd just left. Work and pay were both hard to come by considering the Great Depression was at its peak.

The Black Sunday storm of 1935 brought even more attention to the desolate state of the Great Plains. It was renamed "The Dust Bowl" because of all the storms. President Roosevelt's New Deal planned to enforce federal regulation of farming methods in order to put a stop to the problem.

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