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A farmer and his sons walk in a dust storm in Oklahoma in 1936.
A farmer and his sons walk in a dust storm in Oklahoma in 1936.

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Mrs. Flora Robertson talk about the dust storms in Oklahoma.

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The Dust Bowl of Oklahoma
Did you know there was once a desert in Oklahoma called the Dust Bowl?

During the great dust storms of the 1930s in Oklahoma, the weather threw up so much dirt that, at times, there was zero visibility and everything was covered in dirt. No matter how tightly Oklahomans sealed their homes, they could not keep the dirt from entering. Dust storms were the result of drought and land that had been overused. Drought first hit the country in 1930. By 1934, it had turned the Great Plains into a desert that came to be known as the Dust Bowl.

In Oklahoma, the Panhandle area was hit hardest by the drought.

The land of the southern plains, including Oklahoma, was originally covered with grasses that held the fine soil in place. Settlers brought their traditional farming techniques with them when they homesteaded the area and they plowed the land deeply. The topsoil was already damaged by the overgrazing of cattle and sheep. The situation was so serious that, by 1935, the government developed conservation programs to improve the Dust Bowl by changing the basic farming methods of the region. Even with these measures, the Dust Bowl lasted about a decade and contributed to the length of the Great Depression of the 1930s.

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CREDIT: Rothstein, Arthur. "Farmer and sons walking in the face of a dust storm. Cimarron County, Oklahoma." April 1936. America from the Great Depression to World War II: Photographs from the FSA-OWI, 1935-1945, Library of Congress
AUDIO CREDIT: Robertson, Mrs. Flora, interviewee. "Interview About Dust Storms in Oklahoma." August 5, 1940. Voices from the Dust Bowl: The Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin Migrant Worker Collection, 1940-1941, Library of Congress.