From the July 24 The Writer's Almanac:

On this day in 1936, the Dust Bowl heat wave was so intense that Kansas and Nebraska experienced their all-time hottest temperatures, unbroken to this day. In Alton, Kansas, the temperature was 121 degrees, and in Minden, Nebraska, it was 118.

During the summer of 1936, a total of 15 states recorded all-time hottest temperatures that still have not been broken. And not all of the states were in the Dust Bowl region.

Earlier in the month, Runyon, New Jersey, was 110, Moorhead, Minnesota, hit 114, and Martinsburg, West Virginia, 112. By early August, Ozark, Arkansas, and Seymour, Texas, had hit 120 degrees.

The term 'Dust Bowl' had first been used on April 15, 1935, the day after 'Black Sunday,' when dust storms were so bad on the Great Plains that the sky was totally black during the day and there were winds up to 60 miles per hour. The term 'dust bowl' was coined by Robert Geiger, a reporter and sports fan, and he might have been comparing the bowl-like formation of the Great Plains, ringed by mountains, to the appearance of the arenas for the Rose Bowl or Orange Bowl. He used it offhandedly -- two days later, he referred to the same region as 'the dust belt.' But 'dust bowl' stuck.

In The Grapes of Wrath (1939), John Steinbeck wrote: 'And then the dispossessed were drawn west -- from Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico; from Nevada and Arkansas, families, tribes, dusted out, tractored out. Carloads, caravans, homeless and hungry; twenty thousand and fifty thousand and a hundred thousand and two hundred thousand. They streamed over the mountains, hungry and restless -- restless as ants, scurrying to find work to do -- to lift, to push, to pull, to pick, to cut -- anything, any burden to bear, for food. The kids are hungry. We got no place to live. Like ants scurrying for work, for food, and most of all for land.' 

 


Comments

07/24/2010 09:54

During the Dust Bowl days I was a child growing up on a cottage court in Colorado Springs, CO and we sheltered many of those migrants who were en-route to California.

I remember waking up to fine silt from Kansas farms that had blown against our kitchen door. The topsoil was gone from the farms and had blown across an entire Sate. Now they know how to farm to avoid the erosion, but it was a disaster then.

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