In 1935 it was estimated that up to that point 850,000,000 tons of top soil and been eroded from the American Southern Plains just during that one year (Nelson undated) .
Henderson, a member of an affected farming family, describes the years before the storms came as a golden age ( 2001, page 15) In the 1930s though things changed dramatically. It became a period of scarce rainfall and high winds, both of which passed over the very light, over worked, soils of the region. The storms began in 1931. In 1932, as described by Ganzel (2003) 14 storms were recorded, and each year the number increased. Farmers however continued to plough and sow, destroying the established grassland. The drought which lasted from 1934 to 1937, affected 27 states according to Nelson (undated) and in the Dustbowl area poor farming practice meant that there were no longer plants whose roots had held the soil together. Black blizzards ensued, especially from the north. This was when the strong winds lifted the light, loose top soil and swirled it around into dense, choking dust clouds. In some area the dust was so dense it acted more like snow, forming high drifts, and even completely covering some farm buildings. The winds were so strong at times that they could move heavy trucks ( Hankel, quoted by Ganzel, 2003) with winds of more than 100 miles per hour. The cattle were choked, and even preparing or eating a meal became almost impossible. Carlson (( quoted by Ganzel , 2003) said that :-
The impact is like a shovelful of fine sand flung against the face. …People caught in their own yards grope for the doorstep. Cars come to a standstill, for no light in the world can penetrate that swirling murk... We live with the dust, eat it, sleep with it, watch it strip us of possessions and the hope of possessions. It is becoming Real.
The result for farmers and their families was