Weather Notebook
Bryan Yeaton

Dustorm - 1934
Fri Sep 24, 2004

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Although the conditions which spawned the Dust Bowl of the 1930s worsened over several years, many consider the peak began with nationwide dust storms in 1934. That year began as the worst drought in U.S. history, covering more than 75 percent of the country and severely impacting 27 of the 48 states. Hi, Iím Bryan Yeaton for The Weather Notebook.

In May 1934, great dust storms began to spread out from the Dust Bowl area, spawning national headlines. The worst of these began May 9th in Montana and Wyoming. A strong storm system lifted an estimated 350 million tons of brown earth skyward, where it was captured by very strong, upper-level winds.

These winds swept the dust cloud eastward across the Dakotas, causing extensive damage and depositing soil dust over eastern regions of the two states. By late afternoon, the storm front had reached Dubuque, Iowa and Madison, Wisconsin, and was heading toward Chicago.

That evening, the black blizzard began depositing 12 million pounds of dust on Chicago -- four pounds for each resident in the city.

At midday on May 10th, the storm had darkened the sky over Buffalo. And the front kept marching eastward, at close to 100 mph. By the following dawn, dust began settling over Boston, New York, Washington and Atlanta before moving out to sea, where it powdered ships 300 miles offshore.

United Press reported the gigantic dust cloud as 1,500 miles long, 900 miles across and two miles high; it had smothered nearly one-third of the nation. Approximately 35 million acres of land were essentially destroyed for crop production, and 100 million acres had lost all or most of their topsoil.

Thanks to our contributing writer, meteorologist Keith Heidorn. The Weather Notebook is supported by Subaru of America and the National Science Foundation.

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The 1930s Dust Bowl

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