The Dust Bowl

The Dust Bowl

Tue, 04/23/2013 - 8:00pm

The worst storm of all hit on Palm Sunday, April 14, 1935—a day remembered as Black Sunday. Here the storm sweeps over a farmstead on its way toward Boise City.

Credit: Courtesy of Associated Press

Survey the causes of the worst man-made ecological disaster in U.S. history: the catastrophic dust storms of the 1930s. WXXI is proud to present Ken Burns' film, The Dust Bowl. This two-part documentary airs Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 8 p.m. with Part 1, and continues Tuesday, April 30 at 8 p.m. with Part 2 on WXXI-TV/HD (DT21.1/cable 1011 and 11). The film chronicles the environmental catastrophe that, throughout the 1930s, destroyed the farmlands of the Great Plains, turned prairies into deserts and unleashed a pattern of massive, deadly dust storms that for many seemed to herald the end of the world.

Written and co-produced by longtime Burns collaborator Dayton Duncan, The Dust Bowl tells the story of the farming boom in the early 20th century that transformed the grassland of the southern plains into wheat fields. Once a drought hit in 1931, winds began picking up soil from the open fields and grew into dust storms of biblical proportions. Each year for nearly a decade, the storms grew more ferocious and more frequent, sweeping up millions of tons of earth, killing crops and livestock, threatening to turn the southern plains into a Sahara, even spreading the dust clear across the country. Children developed fatal “dust pneumonia,” business owners unable to cope with the financial ruin committed suicide and thousands of desperate Americans were torn from their homes and forced on the road in an exodus unlike anything the United States had ever seen.