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Apocalypse Now: Historic Photo Shows Massive 1935 Dust Storm

A 'black blizzard' enveloped a Texas town in April 1935
A massive dust storm hits Stratford, Texas, on April 18, 1935. (NOAA George E. Marsh Album)
Apocalyptic photos of massive clouds of dust enveloping Phoenix, Ariz., began circulating around the internet in July 2011 when a dust storm hit the area. It was the first time many outside of the arid Southwest had seen such an image.

But there were severe dust storms in the U.S. long before social media and viral photos. From March through April 1935, weeks of dust storms known as black blizzards, black rollers or dusters repeatedly slammed western Kansas and the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles.

The onslaught culminated on April 14, 1935, known afterward as Black Sunday, when an enormous dust storm raced through all three states, rising 8,000 feet into the air and reaching speeds of up to 60 mph. "Some people thought the end of the world was at hand when every trace of daylight was obliterated at 4 p.m.," reported Kansas newspaper Liberal News the following day.

Associated Press reporter Robert E. Geiger wrote on April 15, "Three little words -- achingly familiar on a western farmer's tongue -- rule life today in the dust bowl of the continent ....'if it rains.'"

And with that, the term "Dust Bowl" was born.

While Black Sunday was considered the peak of the dust storms that season, the dusters continued for several weeks. The photograph above shows a billowing dust storm in Stratford, Texas, on April 18, 1935.

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