Remembering the infamous Dust BowlAlthough he was just a little tyke, Len Martin remembers clearly the day that a dust storm during the infamous Dust Bowl left his family’s farm in the dark for hours.
By: Regan Carstensen, The Republican Eagle
Although he was just a little tyke, Len Martin remembers clearly the day that a dust storm during the infamous Dust Bowl left his family’s farm in the dark for hours.
By the time the black dust finally cleared, the roosters were crowing and cows were coming in from the pasture to be milked.
“They thought it was a new day,” Martin said.
Getting caught in clouds of dark dust was not unusual back in the late 1920s and early ‘30s. It stemmed from a long, hot drought that left farmers struggling to get crops to grow. As a result, the soil and dirt was a lot more likely to move from where it belonged.
“When there’s no vegetation to hold it down, the wind picks it up,” Martin explained.
Dry and windy made for a bad combination as the weather began to affect more than just the farmers. Every so often black walls of dust would travel through the air, forcing people to drop what they were doing outdoors.
“You got in the house if you could,” Martin said. Women would take damp towels and put them by windows in an attempt to keep dust out as much as possible, he added.
Once everyone was inside, it was a waiting game.
“That’s about all you could do — just wait it out,” Martin remembered.
In addition to the dust and the dry air, temperatures were scorching. Martin admits he doesn’t handle heat very well, so with air conditioning not yet invented, how did he keep cool?
“You really didn’t,” he put it simply.
The 89-year-old lived in Nebraska during those times, but eventually found his way to Minnesota and now resides at Deer Crest in Red Wing. While Red Wing hasn’t experienced days of darkness this summer due to thick black clouds, the excessive heat throughout July was nearly enough to rival that of the Dust Bowl.
July 6 was the only day of the month to reach 100 degrees locally, but plenty of others boasted temps in the 90s. In fact, the first six days of the month had highs of at least 94 degrees. Numbers dropped slightly into the 80s for a few days following, but heat and humidity returned without fail.
The Dust Bowl was mimicked not only through heat but also precipitation — or lack thereof. Red Wing didn’t see a drop of rain for the first two weeks of the month.
Instead, the area was simply struck with sunshine, causing the heat index to rise. Thirteen days in July recorded high temperatures above 90 degrees, making up a majority of the 20 total days that reached the same standard so far this year.
None of those numbers, however, surpass any records posted during the Dust Bowl era. The 1930s still hold the highest local temperatures on nearly two dozen July days, many of them coming in 1936. That year saw record-high temperatures on July 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 17. The top temperature was 113 degrees.
Martin lived similar temperatures in Nebraska, and as he’s aged he’s seen how drastically times have changed. Staying cool used to be a lot more complicated.
“Now the idea of hardship is going from your air-conditioned house to your air-conditioned car,” he said.
July by the numbers
High: 100 degrees on July 6
Low: 60 degrees on July 10, 11 and 28
Average daily high: 88.5 degrees
Average daily low: 67.5 degrees
Precipitation: 3.21 inches of rain
Source: U.S. Lock & Dam No. 3, Red Wing Waste Water Treatment Plant