Dwarfing barns and homes, a dust storm roars into the Texas panhandle town of Spearman during the Great Depression. Caused by drought and poor farming practices, these enormous “black blizzards” or “black rollers” scarred the lungs and turned day to night.
This storm struck on April 14, 1935, a day known from then on as “Black Sunday,” according to Timothy Egan’s “The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl” (Houghton Mifflin, 2005). The storm ripped through five states with winds up to 60 miles (97 kilometers) per hour, generating enough static electricity to power New York. A pilot flying over the area reported climbing to 23,000 feet (7,010 meters) before realizing she wouldn’t be able to fly high enough to avoid the choking cloud of dust. The Black Sunday duster would go down in history as the worst dust storm ever seen on the Great Plains.