The View from Ground Zero: Sunday Oct 11, 2020 winds bring memories of Dirty Thirties

The term ground zero is usually associated with an explosion and describes the location closest to a detonation. In the case of an explosion above the ground, ground zero refers to the point on the ground directly below the detonation.   In recent American culture it often refers to the location nearest 911 terrorist attacks on New York City’s World Trade Centers in 2001.   The term is also often used in describing the worst hit areas near earthquakes, tornados and other disasters or to describe other disasters with a geographic reference or conceptual epicenter.

Rarely is Colorado mentioned when conversations arise about the Dust Bowl.  However those of  who grew up in southeast Colorado’s Baca County are fully aware that ground zero of the 1930’s dust bowl included Southeast Colorado along with Southwest Kansas, the Oklahoma Panhandle, the upper Texas Panhandle and Northeast New Mexico. For Baca Countians, the Dust Bowl ground zero was their backyard.

Baca County Fairgrounds, Springfield, Colorado October 11, 2020
Courtesy of Melissa Lowe

This past week the present reminded us of the past. Although we usually think of the 1930s the dirt blowing past of Southeastern Colorado may have first been documented in the Lamar, Colorado newspaper in 1887.

Bent County Register (Lamar, Colorado) April 9, 1887.

Hard-hitting winds, with reported 60mph gusts, whipped across the Great Plains this past Sunday October 11th, reducing visibility, extreme temperature drops brought back memories of the Dust Bowl. Many people are familiar with the dust bowl because authors such as Tim Eagan and producers such as Ken Burns have spent significant time trying to capture the essence of that era.

Many reports from the 1930s talk about the blue sky suddenly turning dark when a storm blew through. However, when you look at the old grainy black and white photos it looks like dust is everywhere. Maybe the black and white photos our parents and grandparents took don’t provide the contrast or maybe shock that we see in the photos from the storm blowing through Baca County Sunday October 11, 2020. There is an amazing and distinct line between the blue sky and the ‘roller’ coming through Baca County this past week.

Springfield, Colorado 1935
The white building in the lower right hand portion of the photo

was my grandparents store in the early 1930s.
Courtesy of a shoe box in my mom’s basement
Springfield, Colorado 1937
Courtesy of a shoe box in my mom’s basement
Eastern Baca County, Sunday October 11, 2020
Courtesy of Leslie Hume

 Baca County Colorado,  is the most southeast county in the state of Colorado and is where I grew up, was included in the epicenter or ground zero, as shown in the maps below. This area, in the 1930’s became known as the Dustbowl.  In other words, Ground Zero for the 1930’s dustbowl. Memories of that time have passed down to the present generation. Those memories came to life this past Sunday, October 11, 2020.

Epicenter of the Dustbowl SE Colorado

Close up of map showing Baca County Colorado as. the Epicenter of the 1930s dustbowl

Baca County Fairgrounds, Springfield, Colorado October 11, 2020
Courtesy of Melissa Lowe
Oct 11 2020 Dust Storm near Springfield Colorado Fairgrounds
Baca County Fairgrounds, Springfield, Colorado October 11, 2020
Courtesy of Melissa Lowe

The winds were scary in their intensity, and, for a time Sunday, the people of Baca County could sense what our parents & grandparents went through — for weeks on end — during the Dirty ‘30s.

Springfield, Colorado October 11, 2020
Courtesy of Cheryl Porter
Springfield, Colorado October 11, 2020
Courtesy of Cheryl Porter

So this happened today in Springfield, Colorado
Social media used many terms of description such as amazing, frightening, scary, and eerie as well. When dirt was whirling at its worst, the skies were dusky and dreary, making it hard to see trees and buildings only a short distance away. In western Baca County it was reported, “It was creepy when it hit the canyon, daylight just disappeared.” 

As is the case in Baca County the dust storm is a reminder that drought and the wind driven dirt is always on the mind of of area residents.  

Courtesy of Janelle Leonard
Courtesy of Janelle Leonard
Courtesy of Dean George
Courtesy of Dean George
Courtesy of Dean George
North of Springfield Colorado, October 11, 2020
Courtesy of Bonna Arbuthnot

North of Springfield Colorado, October 11, 2020
Courtesy of Bonna Arbuthnot

Courtesy of Kirk Guder

East of Walsh, Colorado, October 11, 2020
Courtesy of Judy Trahern
Secom Internet Services Ad, LaJunta Colorado