The Dust Bowl
The Dust Bowl, despite being partially caused by wind, drought, and heat, was far more extreme than it had to be due to farming. Improvements in farming technology allowed for easier plowing, but also broke up the soil more.
Dust Storms were the main part and danger of the dust bowl. Dust Storms were described as "black blizzards", sometimes lasting for hours. These storms made breathing difficult, and even coated plates and glasses with a thin layer of dust, gritting people's teeth. Due to the intense winds and dust blowing, people often wore masks during a storm. People often died of "dust pneumonia". Dust pneumonia was caused when the lungs were filled with dust, inflaming the alveoli and inhibiting the absorption of oxygen into the bloodstream.
The most well known and biggest dust storm came on Sunday, April 14th in 1935. Nicknamed Black Sunday, the storm was over 1,000 miles wide, traveled nearly 1,500 miles, and was said to have displaced nearly 300 million tons of topsoil across the Prairie area. This storm was by far the most deadly dust storm ever to see the U.S.
There were many attempts to aid farmers and reduce the intensity of the devastating dust storms. The United States Forest Service began the Prairie States Forestry Project in 1937. This project planted nearly 18600 miles of trees at its end- the trees were used as barriers around crops to protect them from the wind and storms. The Soil Erosion Services (SES) got nearly $5 million by the Public Works Administration (PWA) to show farmers what the best soil conservation methods are. These demonstrations continued throughout the dust bowl as wel as after it to ensure something of this magnitude didn't happen again- the combination of shelterbelts (the tree barriers) and impropved soil conservation prevented the extreme conditions of the dust bowl when the winds and heat returned in the 1950's. Land utilization projects turned many areas into national grasslands, including the Cimarron National Grassland in Kansas, Comanche National Grassland in Colorado, and Rita Blanca National Grassland in Oklahoma.
Despite receiving aid from federal agencies that averaged $700 per year (roughly $11,722.38 in today's money) from the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA), Resssettlement Administration (RA), and Farm Security Administration (FSA), it still wasn't enough for most families to fulfill their financial obligations and many went bankrupt.