By 24 March
 southeastern Colorado and western Kansas had seen
twelve consecutive days of dust storms, but there was worse
to come. Near the end of March a new duster swept across
the southern plains, destroying one-half the wheat crop
in Kansas, one-quarter of it in Oklahoma, and all of it
in Nebraska—5 million acres blown out. The storm carried
away from the plains twice as much earth as men and machines
had scooped out to make the Panama Canal, depositing it
once again over the East Coast states and the Atlantic Ocean.
Then the wind slackened off a bit, gathering strength, as
it were, for the spectacular finale of that unusual spring
season—Black Sunday, 14 April.
- Dawn came
clear and rosy all across the plains that day. By noon
the skies were so fresh and blue that people could not
remain indoors; they remembered how many jobs they had
been postponing, and with a revived spirit they rushed
outside to get them done. They went on picnics, planted
gardens, repaired henhouses, attended funerals, drove
to the neighbors for a visit. In mid-afternoon the summery
air rapidly turned colder, falling as many as 50 degrees
in a few hours, and the people noticed then that the
yards were full of birds nervously fluttering and chattering—and
more were arriving every moment, as though fleeing from
some unseen enemy. Suddenly there appeared on the northern
horizon a black blizzard, moving toward them; there
was no sound, no wind, nothing but an immense "boogery"
cloud. — Donald Worster, Dust Bowl
The Southern Plains in the 1930s
lived six miles southeast of Farwell, Texas. The worst [dust
storm] I remember occurred when I was about four years old.
I still remember that day. I can replay scenes now in my
mind. I did not sense fear but awesomeness. It was something
you experience. I can describe it but you miss the awesomeness
of the whole thing.
sand got pretty close to us before the wind started. The
front was just a few miles away when the wind got very strong.
I remember seeing a mother hen and her little chickens in
the yard. she was trying to get all her chicks under her
wings to protect them. She knew danger was at hand. She
finally succeeded getting them all hidden under her fluffed-up
feathers. That seems to be a very intelligent mother hen
except she made one big mistake. She turned her back to
the wind and it caught her feathers. She and the little
chicks went flying across the yard. I do not know if my
parents ever found them. Most of the chickens would have
been blown away but most all of them went to roost in the
chicken house. The reason was probably because it became
so dark they thought it was night.
about the awesome dirt front. It was approaching us from,
I guess it was the west, rolling over us. Being that young
it is hard to know if my measurements are correct but I
would guess it was 500 to 1000 feet high. It was dark reddish/brown,
the color of the soil in that area. It was so dense the
sun did not shine through it. It became about eighty percent
dark once it rolled over us. It was rolling over us like
you were under a waterfall that came from the top all the
way to the ground in a circular fashion. If you were an
ant and the street very slowly rolled over you, you would
get the idea of how the front of the dust storm looked to
me. By the time it started engulfing us we went into the
house. I have no memory beyond that time. — Howard
husband remembers those days very well, especially Black
Sunday. He was seven and the family of six had been visiting
a relative east of Happy, Texas. They were headed home to
Tulia, Texas when it came rolling in. They were in a 1929
Model A Ford. When they saw the cloud rolling in they decided
they better get home, but were caught in it. The only way
to see where they were at, was to stop and see whose name
was on the mailboxes. When they got home his mother wet
bedsheets and hung them over the windows tring to keep the
dirt out. The next morning everything was covered up with
dirt, just like a snow drift. The fence rolls were covered,
as well as the chicken coop, and barns. The dust was in
the air for days and days. — Elaine McDowell,
Ochiltree County Herald, Perryton, Texas, April
Black Blizzard Breaks All Records
Visibility Goes to Zero; Many
Are Caught On Highways and on Picnic Parties
Was Worst in History
Worst Duster in History Followed
Ideal Spring Day; Hit Here About Five o'clock
worst dust storm in the memory of the oldest inhabitants
of this section of the country hit Perryton at five o'clock
Sunday afternoon, catching hundreds of people away from
their homes, at the theatre, on the highways, or on picnic
parties. The storm came up suddenly, following a perfect
just a few minutes after the first bank appeared in the
north, the fury of the black blizzard was upon us, turning
the bright sunshine of a perfect day into the murky inkiness
of the blackest night. Many hurried to storm cellars, remembering
the cyclone of July, two years ago, which followed a similar
question, this storm put the finishing touch of destruction
to what faint hopes this area had for a wheat crop. Business
houses and homes were literally filled with the fine dirt
and silt driven in by this fifty mile an hour gale.
storm started in the Dakotas and carried through with diminishing
fury into Old Mexico. Borger reported the storm struck there
at 6:15 p.m.; Amarillo at 7:20 p.m.; Boise City, Oklahoma,
at 5:35 p.m.; and Dalhart at 5:15 p.m.
Liberal News, Liberal, Kansas, April 15, 1935
Southwest was Plunged into Inky
Blackness Yesterday with Only Few Minutes Warning
Some People Thought the End
of the World was at Hand when Every Trace of Daylight was
Obliterated at 4:00 p.m.
people who during the past two weeks thought they had experienced
the worst that could come in the form of dirt storms, looked
on in awe and many of them in terror yesterday afternoon
when...a great black bank rolled in out of the northeast
and in a twinkling when it struck Liberal plunged everything
into inky blackness, worse than that on any midnight, when
there is at least some starlight and outlines of objects
can be seen.
the storm struck it was impossible to see one's hand
before his face even two inches away. And it was several
minutes before any trace of daylight whatsoever returned.
day up to that time had been one of the few pleasant ones
of the past several weeks. There had been no clouds in the
sky. The temperature was unusually high and the day was
one inviting people into the out of doors after day after
day of dust.
many were caught out in the storm which came so suddenly
that few realized it was even on the way until it was right
Amarillo Daily News, April 15, 1935
DUSTER WHIPS ACROSS PANHANDLE
FARMERS PRAY FOR RAIN BUT WIND
NORTHER STRIKES SUNDAY TO BLOT
OUT SUN, TURN DAY INTO NIGHT
SETS RECORD PACE
KANSAS GOVERNOR SAYS SOIL UNDAMAGED;
STORM HITS SOUTH TEXAS
(By The Associated
whipped dust of the drought area to a new fury Sunday and
old timers said the storm was the worst they'd seen.
Farmers prayed through dust filmed lips for rain. A black
duster—sun blotting cloud banks—raced over Southwest
Kansas, the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles, and foggy haze
spread about other parts of the southwest. Easter services
at Lindsborg, Kansas, opening with a chorus singing "The
Messiah" were carried on in dust-laden air.
The black duster
made the 105 miles from Boise City, Okla., to Amarillo,
Texas, in 1 hour 45 minutes. Hundreds of Sunday motorists
lured to the highways by 90 degrees temperatures and crystal
clear skies were caught by the storm. Farmers and agricultural
officials of the dust area, Southwest Kansas, Southeast
Colorado, Northeastern New Mexico and the Texas and Oklahoma
Panhandles, reported the soil was not damaged and that crops
could still be made this season if it would rain. Governor
Alf M. Landon of Kansas pointed out top soil ranges from
10 to 30 feet deep at many points in the area.
TURNS CITY INTO TOTAL DARKNESS
every speck of light, the worst duststorm in the history
of the Panhandle covered the entire region early last night.
The billowing black cloud struck Amarillo at 7:20 o'clock
and visibility was zero for 12 minutes.
cleared and Weatherman H. T. Collman said the storm would
be over by morning. The black, ominous cloud rolled over
the Panhandle from the north, an awe-inspiring spectacle.
The storm continued
southward and had moved into Wichita Falls by 9:45 o'clock,
the Associated Press reported. A large area west and southwest
of Temple was reported feeling effects of the duster, which
moved onward into South Texas.
the terrible storm reached Amarillo about 45 minutes before
it struck. It came from a woman in Stinnett. The woman called
Sheriff Bill Adams. He did not learn her name. "I feel
that you people of Amarillo should know of the terrible
duststorm which has struck here and probably will hit Amarillo,"
the woman said, "I am sitting in my room and I cannot
see the telephone."
A gentle, north
breeze preceded 8,000-feet-high clouds of dust. As the midnight
fog arrived, the streets were practically deserted. However,
hundreds of people stood before their homes to watch the
swiftly after the city had been enveloped in the stinking,
stinging dust, carried by a 50-mile-an-hour wind. Despite
closed windows and doors, the silt crept into buildings
to deposit a dingy, gray film. Within two hours the dust
was a quarter of an inch in thickness in homes and stores.
the north at 10:30 o'clock last night by the Santa Fe
dispatcher said that the moon could be seen at Woodward,
Okla., showing that the storm was clearing rapidly.
forecast for today was partly cloudy and colder. The storm
struck just before early twilight. All traffic was blocked
and taxi companies reported that it was difficult to make
calls for nearly 45 minutes. Street signal lights were invisible
a few paces away. Lights in 10 and 12 story buildings could
not be seen.
John L. McCarty,
editor of the Dalhart Texan, of Dalhart, the center of the
drought-stricken area of the Panhandle, called a few minutes
before the storm arrived in Amarillo. The storm struck Dalhart
about 85 minutes before it hit Amarillo and the city remained
in total darkness for more than that length of time, he
outside the house during the storm and could not see a lighted
window of the house three feet away." Mr. McCarty said.
Borger, Perryton and other cities on the North Plains reported
similar conditions, proving that the storm was becoming
less vicious the farther south it moved.
Damage to the
wheat crop, already half ruined by drought and wind, could
not be learned last night, but several grainmen believed
that the dust would cover even more of the crops.
The storm started
yesterday when a high pressure area moved out of the Dakotas
toward Wyoming, according to Mr. Collman. Most of the dust
was from western Kansas and Oklahoma, he said.
operator, forced to stick to his post in a dusty shop appeared
with a narrow strip of shoe shining cloth, lined with sheepskin,
tied close to his nostrils. When dampened, he said, it made
A Santa Fe
freight train, scheduled to depart from the South Plains
about 8 o'clock, was held up nearly an hour waiting
for the dust to subside. With improved visibility by 11
o'clock it was reported making good time, aided by a
SEE HAND IN GUYMON DUST
April 14 (AP)—Another dust storm, even more severe
than those which enveloped the Oklahoma Panhandle last week,
turned daylight suddenly into darkness here late this afternoon.
Earlier, worshipers had gathered in a church and prayed
for rain. Clouds soon appeared, but quickly vanished.
had taken advantage of a clear, pretty day to drive into
the countryside were believed trapped in the deluge of silt,
which rolled and boiled like the smoke from a gigantic oil
At times, one
could not see his hand before him on Main Street here. In
the worst of the onslaught, lights could not be seen through
the dirt-filled air. As the blinding cloud swept in from
the north, motorists drove toward home at full speed. Breathing
was extremely difficult out of doors, and it was impossible
to find one’s way about. Outlines of buildings seen
across the street, dim at best, would disappear at times,
and the few business houses open were crowded with those
lured into the open by a beautiful day. As alarm of the
approaching storm spread through the town, hundreds of cameras
were made ready and put to use when it struck.
CROWD IN PANIC AS LIBERAL BECLOUDED
April 14 (AP)—The worst dust storm in history brought
premature and complete darkness to this city in midafternoon
today. The weather was delightful thirty minutes previous.
suddenly from the Southwest, the storm struck during a funeral
at a local church, putting the crowd into a panic. Three
people fainted as the dust swept inside the church.
telephone wires are reported out of order and the weather
turned colder tonight with the storm still raging.
Leland Fox, 10, his step-sister, Corinne Weeden, 10, and
their dog passed an entire night by this thistle and dust-clogged
fence row in vicinity of their home near Hugoton, Kans.
They became lost while hunting in a field for arrowheads.
Some 100 persons joined in the searching party. After a
night in the storm, punctuated by coyote howls, Leland made
his way to aid.
WRITER CAUGHT IN DUST
NOTE: Of all types of soil blowing, the black duster provides
the most awe-inspiring manifestation of the power of the
prairie wind. It moves with express train speed and blots
out the sun so darkness prevails at midday. Such a storm
was that which swept over part of Southwest Sunday. An Associated
Press correspondent caught in the cloud tells of the experience.)
by Robert Geiger
Okla., April 14 (AP)—Old timers say it’s the
worst storm to his this part of the country, dust ridden
though they’ve been in recent weeks.
The cloud caught
us, Staff Photographer Harry Eisenhand and I, on the highway
about six miles north of town.
We first noticed
it about nine miles out. Rain seemed to be coming. Then
it resolved into a dust formation.
a swell picture," Harry said. We stopped at a knoll,
took several pictures, then turned the car around for flight.
The great cloud
of dust rose a thousand feet into the air, blue gray. In
front of it were six or seven whirling columns of dust,
drifting up like cigar smoke.
We went down
the road about 60 miles an hour to keep ahead of it. We
had seen an old couple at a dilapidated farm house, and
stopped there to warn them, but they had already gone.
the car was suddenly engulfed by a flank movement of the
cloud. Momentarily the road glimmered ahead like a ribbon
of light in a tunnel, then the dust closed it. It became
absolutely black as night. We slammed on the brakes and
turned on the car lights. Exploring by touch, we found the
car in a dust drift.
and keeping a door open to watch the edge of the highway,
we took two hours to move the remaining six miles into Boise
City. En route we picked up Jack Atkins of Hunter, Colo.,
his wife and three children from their stalled car. "Without
doubt," said Atkins, "this is the worst blow that
ever hit this section."
hundreds of cars were stalled throughout the area by the
dust, seemingly semi-solid in the darkness.
barely be seen across the street. It took the storm just
one hour 45 minutes to travel the 105 miles airline from
Boise City to Amarillo, Texas.
procession of Mrs. Loumiza Lucas, enroute from Boise City
to Texhoma, Okla., was caught eight miles out and forced
to turn back. Mrs. Lucas was the mother of Fred Lucas, well
known Texhoma rancher, and E..W. Lucas of Boise City.
Half a dozen
small boys and girls sought by police as missing were found
to have been lost on the way from their home—they
started when skies were clear—to a drug store.
Evening Journal, April 15, 1935
ANOTHER DUST BLOW FELT
FOUR STATES STRUCK SUNDAY; TRAFFIC
IS BADLY HAMPERED
By the Associated
the southwestern dust bowl marked up another black duster
today and wondered how long it would be before another one
came along. Already cheered by two days of clear skies and
a respite from the choking silt and sand, they were enjoying
what started out to be a balmy Sunday when the duster swept
out of the north over western Kansas and eastern Colorado,
and rushed on over the Oklahoma Panhandle and into Texas.
Motorists Are Caught
Sunday motorists were caught when the dense black cloud
bore down upon them at a rate of 60 miles an hour. Some
Oklahomans rushed for their storm cellars as day was turned
into night. Many motorists who attempted to drive through
the cloud of stinging gravel and sand, found that static
electricity, generated by the dust particles, had disrupted
the ignition systems of their engines.