Wednesday Is 75th Anniversary Of 'Black Sunday' In Oklahoma

Tuesday, April 13th 2010, 3:13 pm
By: News On 6

UNDATED -- April 14th is the anniversary of 'Black Sunday' in western Oklahoma.  On that date in 1935 a massive cloud of dust roared out of the northern plains across Nebraska, Kansas and into western Oklahoma, turning a warm sunny afternoon into blackness. 

Much of the plains had experienced dust and sand storms during the 1930's, but the storm that hit on the afternoon of April 14th, 1935 was much worse.

The day is known as "Black Sunday," because of the wall of sand and dust that blasted into parts of western Oklahoma. 

The worst conditions were in the Oklahoma panhandle where winds of 70 miles per hour filled the air with dirt and dust, blotting out the sun and causing temperatures to fall as much as 50 degrees. 

Survivors said it got so dark they could not see their hands in front of their faces.

There had been a series of storms that spring, but on April 14th the weather was clear and many people were outdoors enjoying it when the big storm hit.

According to the Oklahoma Historical Society, total darkness lasted for 40 minutes.  After that the storm caused twilight that lasted for another three hours.

Read the Oklahoma Historical Society's Dust Bowl Lore page.

The Oklahoma Historical Society says Associated Press staff writer Robert Geiger coined the phrase "dust bowl" in an article the day after the April 14th storm.

He was in Guymon writing a series of articles on the dust storms and sent a release to the Washington, D.C., Evening Star on April 15th saying, "Three little words achingly familiar on a Western farmer's tongue rule life today in the dust bowl of the continent.  If it rains..."

According to the Oklahoma Historical Society, within a few months "dust bowl" was the unofficial name used for the area comprised of the Oklahoma panhandle, most of the Texas panhandle, northeastern New Mexico, southeastern Colorado and western Kansas.

Oklahoma had the smallest territory involved in the dust bowl, but because many of the stories about the big storms were filed from the city of Guymon, millions of Americans came to associate the dust bowl with Oklahoma instead of the other states.