11 Facts about Black Sunday

If you read A Cup of Dust you know that the story ended on Palm Sunday, 1935. All seems well. Sunny, bright, blue sky, the dust is over.

If, however, you know the history of the Dust Bowl, you are aware that the day didn’t end the way it started.

A Trail of Crumbs (releasing March 27) picks up Pearl’s story right where A Cup of Dust left off, April 14, 1935. A day also known as “Black Sunday”.

Want to know more about that day, the setting for the beginning of my new novel? Here are 11 Facts.

  1. On that day many people took advantage of the clear day to go on picnics, visit family in neighboring towns, or air out their houses. The people affected by the dusters (living in states including Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, and Kansas) believed that they’d seen the end of all dust storms. They decided to celebrate.

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    Photo by Dorothea Lange, Library of Congress, Historic Adobe Museum

  2.  By 4:00 pm the skies turned black. The monstrous dust cloud came barreling on them without warning. Some even said the sky above the black “roller” was bright blue and that the sun shone as bright as before high in the sky.

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    US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Public Domain

  3. The high winds reportedly displaced 300,000 tons of topsoil. That’s 461,538 African elephants. Or 150,000 minivans. Or 3,141,361 men of average weight. Friends, that’s a lot of soil churning and turning over everything.
  4. The cloud was over 1,000 miles long. That’s 182 Mount Everests. Or 17,600 football fields. Or the distance from my house to the town where Stephen King lives (not that I’ve mapped it out or anything).
  5. Winds whipped that soil at up to 100 miles per hour. 

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    Courtesy of the Associated Press

  6. The swirling dust built up static electricity. Folks had to drag a chain behind their cars to keep the battery from shorting. The barbed wire fences glowed blue with electricity. People shocked each other when they touched.
  7. The storm submerged the entire region in darkness so thick, you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. Hens, thinking it was night, went in to roost in the middle of the day. Eyewitnesses said they couldn’t see the street lights or even their hand held up in front of their face.
  8. Many people were stranded away from home. They took shelter in abandoned homes, their cars, or with kindly strangers. Some even formed a human chain, holding hands and leading each other to safety.
  9. Of those who survived that day, many came down with “dust pneumonia”. Much like a coal miner’s “black lung”, this was a build up of dust in the lungs, leaving the sufferer with lifelong asthma and other respiratory ailments.

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    Masks worn to protect the lungs from the dust. Courtesy Getty Images.

  10. This storm earned the region national attention. The dust blew all the way to Washington D.C. where it fell on members of Congress as they met to decide whether or not to pass soil conservation legislation to help the people caught in the plague of dust. They did, indeed, pass that bill.
  11.  It earned the region the title “The Dust Bowl”. Robert E. Geiger coined the title in his report for the Associated Press on the storm. Fun fact: It may have been an error. Some thought he meant to call it “The Dust Belt” instead.

Have any questions about that day (or anything during the Dust Bowl era)? Go ahead and write it in the comments below. I’ll do my very best to answer!

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To learn more about the Dust Bowl, check out Ken Burns’ documentary The Dust Bowl or read Timothy Egan’s The Worst Hard Time.

Also, pre-order your copy by calling Baker Book House at 1-866-241-6733 or online at the Kregel website (or if you must, on Amazon). Better yet, if you’re in the West Michigan area, plan on joining me for my release party at Baker Book House on March 23! Claim your free ticket to the event HERE.

 

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