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The Dust Bowl

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Amber Kudla

on 9 March 2013

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Transcript of The Dust Bowl

The Dust Bowl The Great Plains were once a barren, empty place, which large dust storms devastated regularly when they carried away crops, and forced the poverty stricken inhabitants to leave. What Was the Dust Bowl? The Dust Bowl was one of the worst
environmental disasters in US history. It was a combination of drought, severe wind erosion, and economic depression in the Great Plains. Severe drought conditions began in 1931 and continued through 1938. (Droughts, 18) Areas most affected include parts of Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. 50 million acres were damaged. (Droughts, 18) Before The Dust Bowl Weather Occasional rain accompanied by 8-16mph winds. (World Book, 315) Temperatures rose and fell quickly. Natural vegetation included short grasses and trees such as Red Cedar. Dust storms happened occasionally in the spring. Population In 1880 there were 800,000 people residing in the Great Plains. * By 1930, 5.6 million farmers inhabited the region. * * ("The Dust Bowl") Causes of The Dust Bowl The plains were over grazed by livestock. John Deere tractors became popular. They allowed the soil to be turned more efficiently. Over plowing robbed the soil of nutrients. It could no longer hold moisture. Wheat was in high demand for WW1 so
many farmers grew it. (World Book, 316) However, wheat crops could not protect the soil from wind. During a Dust Storm People had to sweep out their attics regularly to prevent the ceiling from caving in under the weight of the dust. (The 1930's, 32) Black Sunday Some of the worst dust storms were known as "black blizzards" because they blocked out the sun. April 14, 1935 was known as Black Sunday. It was one of the worst black blizzards the region experienced. According to "Droughts" by The World Book Encyclopedia, on Black Sunday "The storm was so intense that day was turned into night, and many people feared that the end of the world had arrived." (p. 19) Emmigration Around half a million people became homeless in the Great Plains. 2.5 million people left in search of work and a better life. About 200,000 emigrants headed for California alone. Californians called them Okies or Arkies. According to "The "Bum Blockade"", "Okies" were blamed for "... shiftlessness, lack of ambition, school overcrowding and stealing jobs..." Wages fell and even if the whole family worked, they could not support themselves. In February 1936, the Los Angeles Police Chief placed 136 officers at 16 major ports of entry into the county to turn back dust bowl refugees. ("The Bum Blockade") The blockade ended when funding was questioned and lawsuits were threatened. Dust Bowl refugees lived in "ditchbank" camps on their employers properties along canals. Living conditions were unsanitary and considered to be a public health issue. The Grapes of Wrath By John Steinbeck Written in 1939, it took place during the Dust Bowl and here it describes a storm. "Little by little the sky was darkened by the mixing dust, and carried away. The wind grew stronger. The rain crust broke and the dust lifted up out of the fields and drove gray dust plumes into the air like sluggish smoke... ...The finest dust did not settle back to earth now, but disappeared into the darkening sky. ... " Effects on the
Environment Cattle slowly starved to death. Jack rabbits in search of food formed herds and ate remaining crops. Other animals died of inhaling the dust. Grasshoppers (or locusts) thrived during the drought and formed swarms. Thousands of cases of "dust pneumonia" appeared, some fatal. Government Responses FDR began many programs to help end the Dust Bowl and Great Depression. Drought Relief Service bought and redistributed cattle from farmers in danger of bankruptcy. $525 million was used for drought relief and it helped employ 8.5 million people. Soil Conservation Service paid farmers to use new farming techniques such as terracing. The Shelterbelt Project planted a line of trees 100 miles wide from Texas to Canada as a wind break. The government bought about 10 million acres of "submarginal" land, (meaning it made no profit). There was a 65% reduction in soil erosion. Numbers Between 1933 and 1936, 20 states set records for dryness. (The 1930's, 31) In 1937 there were over 100 dust storms. (Droughts, 18) In may 1934, a storm carried 350 million tons of dust to the east coast. (Droughts, 18) Between '30 and '35 the storms were most severe. (The 1930's, 35) In 1935 it was estimated that 850 million tons of topsoil had blown away that year with a total affected area of 4,350,000 acres. ("About the Dust Bowl") Dust was also bad for car and tractor engines. Winds were between 60 and 70 mph and approaching storms were visible from miles away. A character in The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck said "Okie means you're scum". Although millions of acres were destroyed, most became farmable again after the drought ended in the fall of 1938.
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