1934: Massive dust storm strikes Eastern US cities

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Newspapers and radio stations East of the Mississippi on the morning of May 12, 1934 carried ominous messages and headlines of a thickening black cloud of chocking dust and dirt moving out of the Great Plains states. The cloud would envelope the Mid-west and then Eastern states on May 12, turning mid-day sunlight into an eerie darkness, that seemed like night in many major cities. What happened? Actually, the causes can be traced back decades. Favorable weather conditions in the from 1900 to the 1920s with significant rainfall and relatively moderate winters, encouraged increased population and farming in the Great Plains. But the region entered an unusually dry period in the summer of 1930. During the next decade, the Northern Plains suffered four of their driest years in almost 100 years. When this severe drought hit the Great Plains region in the 1930s, it resulted in erosion and loss of topsoil because of farming practices at the time. The drought dried the topsoil and over time it became reduced to a powdery consistency. Native high grasses that held the soil in place had been plowed under to make room for expanding crop lands, so when high winds that occur on the plains picked up the topsoil massive dust clouds and dust storms occurred, giving rise to the term Dust Bowl. The continuous dry weather caused crops to fail, leaving the plowed fields exposed to wind erosion. The fine soil of the Great Plains was easily picked up and carried east by strong winds. In November 1933, a very strong dust storm stripped topsoil from South Dakota farmlands in just one of a series of severe dust storms that year. But beginning on May 9, 1934, a strong, several days dust storm removed massive amounts of Great Plans soil in one perhaps the worst storm of the Dust Bowl. The dust clouds first blew all the way to Chicago, where they deposited 12 million pounds of dust. By May 12, 1934, the same storm reached cities to the east, such as Cleveland, Buffalo, Boston, New York City and Washington, D. C. turning day to night and chocking millions of people as dirt all the way from the plains states was deposited more than 1000 miles away on the streets and in the homes of major cities.

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