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Once-thriving farms are still abandoned, and new dangers are again putting the Great Plains in serious jeopardy. Works Progress Administration, Washington, D.C. Riebsame, W.E. Although the 1930s drought is often referred to as if it were one episode, there were at least 4 distinct drought events: 1930–31, 1934, 1936, and 1939–40 (Riebsame et al., 1991). Ironically, the Ogallala Aquifer is not being depleted to feed American families or to support the kind of small farmers who hung on through the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl years. Some of the land use patterns and methods of cultivation in the region can be traced back to the settlement of the Great Plains nearly 100 years earlier. As Donald Worster, the leading historian of the Dust Bowl, put it, “In no other instance was there greater or more sustained damage to the American land . The Dust Bowl spread from Saskatchewan and Manitoba to the north, all the way to Oklahoma and parts of Texas and New Mexico in the south. We are here to stay” (quoted in Hurt, 1981). In 1936, the people got their first glimmer of hope. Before the 1930s drought, federal aid had generally been withheld in emergency situations in favor of individual and self-reliant approaches. However, it is not known how many of the remaining cases (32%) were indirectly affected by drought. Furthermore, during the 1920s, many farmers switched from the lister to the more efficient one-way disc plow, which also greatly increased the risk of blowing soil. Due to low crop prices and high machinery costs, more submarginal lands were put into production. The Dust Bowl drought of the 1930s was arguably one of the worst environmental disasters of the 20th century. Humor helped; tales about birds flying backward to keep from getting sand in their eyes, housewives scouring pots and pans by holding them up to keyholes for a sandblasting, and children who had never seen rain were among the favorite stories of Dust Bowl inhabitants. (Image: Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress LC-USZ62-16083). "I wonder if in the next 500 years--or the next 1000, there will be summers when rain will fall in Inavale. We're talking sand in your hair, between your toes, in your ears, in places you didn't even know you had. The Dust Bowl Drought: Discusses the natural disaster that led to the Dust Bowl. Warrick et al. The primary impact area of the Dust Bowl, as it came to be known, was on the Southern Plains. Crops withered and died. The PBS documentary about the Dust Bowl was amazing – what a disaster of epic proportions and a reminder of how important the soil is to our lives! Decades later, the land is still not completely restored. These events laid the groundwork for the severe soil erosion that would cause the Dust Bowl. By 1937, the Soil Conservation Service had been established, and by the following year, soil loss had been reduced by 65%. Congressional actions in 1934 alone accounted for relief expenditures of $525 million (U.S. House of Representatives, 1934); the total cost (social, economic, and environmental) would be impossible to determine. This led to a return to some of the inappropriate farming and grazing practices that made many regions so vulnerable to drought in the 1930s. A number of poor land management practices in the Great Plains region increased the vulnerability of the area before the 1930s drought. Relief of the drought area. 1937. The Farmer’s Frontier, 1865–1900. (1975) note that the proactive measures continued in the years following the drought: conservation practices and irrigation increased, farm sizes grew larger, crop diversity increased, federal crop insurance was established, and the regional economy was diversified. “Boosters” of the region, hoping to promote settlement, put forth glowing but inaccurate accounts of the Great Plains’ agricultural potential. A post-World War I recession led farmers to try new mechanized farming techniques as a way to increase profits. Photograph by Solomon D. Butcher. . (1980) claims that financial assistance from the government may have been as high as $1 billion (in 1930s dollars) by the end of the drought. Fortunately, the lessons learned from this drought were used to reduce the vulnerability of the regions to future droughts. When the national economy went into decline in the late 1920s because of the Great Depression, agriculture was even more adversely affected. 93–123. Problems remained, but these programs and activities would play a fundamental role in reducing the vulnerability of the nation to the forthcoming 1950s drought. 398, Washington, D.C. Warrick, R.A. 1980. In all, assistance may have reached $1 billion (in 1930s dollars) by the end of the drought (Warrick et al., 1980). It was the most damaging and prolonged environmental disaster in American history. The drought’s direct effect is most often remembered as agricultural. The peculiar combination of these circumstances and the severity and areal coverage of the event played a part in making the 1930s drought the widely accepted drought of record for the United States. In the summer of 1931, rain stopped falling and a drought that would last for most of the decade descended on the region. Warrick et al. We've been having quite a bit of blowing dirt every year since the drought started, not only here, but all over the Great Plains. The Dust Bowl was a significant disaster for the United States, resulting in large economic and agricultural losses, farm abandonment, and a level of human migration that, in the recent historical period, is comparable only with the evacuation of New Orleans in 2005 (4, 10). National Drought Mitigation CenterUniversity of Nebraska-Lincoln, Study shows ranchers with drought plans in place make some pivotal moves sooner than those who don’t, NDMC's Haigh discusses drought and rancher decision-making on Center for Grassland Studies Podcast, Drought Center develops social media resources to help encourage drought monitoring. The Dust Bowl of the 1930s stands as the United States’ worst environmental disaster in history. This ecological and economic disaster and the region where it happened came to be known as the Dust Bowl. Baker; and W. Brinkman. Some voluntarily deeded their farms to creditors, others faced foreclosure by banks, and still others had to leave temporarily to search for work to provide for their families. Although records focus on other problems, the lack of precipitation would also have affected wildlife and plant life, and would have created water shortages for domestic needs. These rains, along with the outbreak of World War II, alleviated many of the domestic economic problems associated with the 1930s. 1975. 1966. It didn't stop there; the Dust Bowl affected all people. 1934. A storm in May 1934 deposited 12 million tons of dust in Chicago and dropped layers of fine brown dust on the streets and parks of New York and Washington, D.C. Farmers who had plowed under the native prairie grass that held soil in place saw tons of topsoil—which had taken thousands of years to accumulate—rise into the air and blow away in minutes. Of all the droughts that have occurred in the United States, the drought events of the 1930s are widely considered to be the “drought of record” for the nation. In 1937, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) reported that drought was the principal reason for economic relief assistance in the Great Plains region during the 1930s (Link et al., 1937). Although it technically refers to the western third of Kansas, southeastern Colorado, the Oklahoma Panhandle, the northern two-thirds of the Texas Panhandle, and northeastern New Mexico, the Dust Bowl has come to symbolize the hardships of the entire nation during the 1930s. In the early 1920s, farmers saw several opportunities for increasing their production. These dusters eroded entire farmlands, destroyed Texas homes, and caused severe physical and mental health problems. That’s what really happened during the Dust Bowl. The Economics and Effects of the Dust Bowl. In 1932, the weather bureau reported 14 dust storms. 1981. When drought began in the early 1930s, it worsened these poor economic conditions. Families wore respiratory masks handed out by Red Cross workers, cleaned their homes each morning with shovels and brooms, and draped wet sheets over doors and windows to help filter out the dust. It was caused by several concurring factors—rising wheat prices, a series of unusually rainy years, and generous federal farm policies prompting a land boom. Many of these measures were initiated by the federal government, a relatively new practice. Program on Technology, Environment and Man Monograph #NSF-RA-E-75-004, Institute of Behavioral Science, University of Colorado, Boulder. The Devastation is Furthered by the Dust Bowl. Determining the direct and indirect costs associated with this period of droughts is a difficult task because of the broad impacts of drought, the event’s close association with the Great Depression, the fast revival of the economy with the start of World War II, and the lack of adequate economic models for evaluating losses at that time. Although cable news and the internet weren’t around to sensationalize the prolonged event, the Great Plains, and Southern Plains were devastated by the damage. Communication from the President of the United States, 73d Congress, 2d Session, Document No. Migrant Farmers and Living Conditions. Certainly not as long as I live will the curse of drouth be lifted from this country.". When winds blew, they raised enormous clouds of dust. Still, children and adults inhaled sand, coughed up dirt, and died of a new epidemic called "dust pneumonia.". Farmers could no longer grow crops as the land turned into a desert. Dust Bowl in Text: Persuasive Rhetoric in the Dust Bowl Story Objective: Students will understand examples of persuasive language and will learn about conditions in the Dust Bowl region in the mid-1930s by examining a speech by Franklin Delano Roosevelt and a … Men were taken off work programs to enter the armed forces and to produce for the war effort. Farmers also started to abandon soil conservation practices. 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