The Great Depression

Black Blizzards - Life in the Dust Bowl

Black Blizzards - Life in the Dust Bowl
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 5 to 7
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   4.45

     challenging words:    breadbasket, food-everything, freak, stalled, topsoil, truckloads, windowsills, pneumonia, tremendous, prime, dubbed, erosion, rarely, widely, pounded, landscape
     content words:    Great Plains, American Midwest, Dust Bowl

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Black Blizzards - Life in the Dust Bowl
By Toni Lee Robinson

1     In the depths of the Depression, it seemed things couldn't get worse. But they did. In 1931, drought began to dry out the land. Great Plains farmers saw their crops shrivel up in the fields. The sun burned relentlessly day after day. Temperatures stayed at record highs, and rain was but a memory. The American Midwest was becoming a desert.
2     Decades earlier, farmers had come to the bountiful Plains in droves. They had plowed up the prairie grasses and shrubs. Year after year, they had planted millions of acres of crops. And each year the land had yielded bushel upon bushel. The soil was a rich, dark chocolate color. The climate was moderate, ideal for wheat and other grain crops. It was like farming the Garden of Eden.
3     Now, suddenly, Eden was dying. A hundred million acres of land in the heart of America were no longer growing anything. Parts of five states were black where they should have been golden with ripening wheat. The drought went on and on. Wise growing practices were not yet widely known, so the land was overused and open to erosion. In the hot sun, the soil baked and crumbled into a fine dust.
4     In 1932, the dust storms started. Raging winds blew across the dry land, gathering up topsoil. The clouds of dust boiled and rolled through the sky, depositing dirt everywhere. People thought the storms were a freak of nature. Surely they would soon end. But year after year, conditions worsened. There were fourteen dust storms in 1932. In 1933, there were thirty-eight. A reporter traveling through the region dubbed it the Dust Bowl.
5     People living in the path of the storms tried desperately to keep from being buried in dust. Wet sheets were hung over doors. Damp towels were pressed around windows. Still, the dust invaded. Furniture, bedding, food—everything was covered with dust. Dirt piled itself in drifts against fences and buildings. Homes were buried up to the windowsills.

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