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The Dust Bowl

The Dust Bowl is one of the most devastating events to affect the United States. It was a period where severe dust storms kept hitting the same area, causing immense agricultural and ecological damage over that period.

The Dust Bowl began in 1930 and went until 1936 (although it lasted until 1940 in some of the areas more affected by the drought). It resulted directly from human abuse of the land in the American and Canadian prairie lands. For years, farmers had been heavily using the land for farming without rotating crops. Instead they used fallow fields and cover crops along with many other techniques designed to turn out the maximum profit, but ended up damaging the land severely. When the drought hit, these lands dried up so badly that it turned to dust, blowing eastward in huge clouds.

The Dust Bowl had a profound affect on the people living in the area at the time. The thousands of farmers who made their living working on millions of acres of land were suddenly useless. Many were forced to give up their farms completely and were left homeless and penniless because they could not work the land that they had been living on for years. Many of these former farming families traveled west where they ended up in California and the neighboring states. Consequently, these people were referred to as "Okies" because so many had come from Oklahoma, which was the state most affected by the drought. To make matters worse, the Dust Bowl coincided with the Great Depression of the 1930s so those families that moved to find work could find no relief elsewhere, either.

The Dust Bowl didn't just affect a family's finances. It affected their health as well. Many farmers died from diseases like dust pneumonia or died from malnutrition because they could not feed themselves. By the end of the Dust Bowl (1940), 2.5 million Americans had left the Plains states for other states, the largest migration in American history. Many didn't return to their farms after the economy and lands recovered, staying on in their new states, working better paying jobs.

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