Black Sunday Dust Storm
April 14, 1935 - A dark blizzard of dust swept across the Great Plains on this day. It's remembered as the Black Sunday Dust Storm, the worst dust storm to ever hit the United States.
For five long years the country had suffered through a relentlesss drought. Vast stretches of over-plowed farmland were reduced to a powdery dust and when the big winds came, 300,000,000 tons of dirt took to the air. To the battered farmers struggling to survive in this desperate time, it looked like the end of the world.
Families sought shelter by sealing the cracks in their doors and windows with cloth, but the fine fog found its was in. Babies struggled to breathe through wet sponges. Damp sheets were draped over beds and wet gunny sacks were whipped up and down in a futile attempt to filter the chalky air.
Avis Carlson wrote about the misery in the New Republic:
People caught in their own yards grope for the doorstep. Cars come to a standstill, for no light in the world can penetrate that swirling murk... We live with the dust, eat it, sleep with it, watch it strip us of possessions and the hope of possessions.
The day after the storm, a reporter described the area impacted by the disaster as the "Dust Bowl." The name stuck and it painted a picture that helped the rest of the country to understand the scale of the calamity.
The suffering continued until 1941 when normal levels of rainfall finally returned.