Over the Holidays I had the opportunity to read a great book recommended to me by a professor of urban planning economics. Timothy Egan’s The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl is a fascinating look at one of the country’s greatest environmental disasters. The dust storms that ravaged the high plains throughout the 1930’s brought death and destructions to thousands of Americans who moved to the area over the previous 50 years to take advantage of cheap land and soaring wheat prices.
You may have heard of the American dust storms before but Egan’s tale brings these storms to light in new and horrifying ways. Dust storms would black out the sun for days on end as people huddled in shelters. At times the air was so full of dust that candles could not get enough air to stay lit. Children walking home from school were literally suffocated to death by clouds of dust. Men could not shake hands because static electricity built up in the clouds of dust to the point where touching another person could knock them off their feet and barbed wire fences hummed with an electric blue glow as storms approached. Thousands died of dust pneumonia as the silica-laden dust particles scarred their lungs until they could not longer function. This really was the worst hard time. Continue reading The Ogallala Aquifer and the Worst Hard Time