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A Scary Thing:
Dust Storm in the Texas Panhandle
April 1935

Ola Covey
As told to Louise George
Louise George
Author: Personal interviews with Texas Panhandle men and women born in the early years of the twentieth century rewarded me with hundreds of stories illustrating their everyday life. I like to share those stories just as they were told to me.

Ola Covey has vivid memories of the Dirty Thirties in the Texas Panhandle. She was working in the Gray County Clerk’s office in Pampa. She and a friend went for Sunday afternoon visit in April 1935. It was a little more exciting than they planned. Ola tells about that day.
I was in the dirt storm to end all dirt storms, I guess. It was one April. It was a nice day and a friend, Lucille Douglas, she and I roomed together, we had gone over to Panhandle. Her brother, Curtis Douglas, a lawyer was over there; he and his wife were living over there with his wife’s mother and father, the Cleeks. They had a real nice farm house. We went over there to visit the Cleeks and as we came out of the house to leave, I never noticed anything wrong, but when we got down to the highway, well Curtis, who was ahead of us, stopped and came back there to us and he said, “It looks like a dust storm coming. You just come on down to the Panhandle Inn until we see what’s going to happen.”
Texas Panhandle dust storm,  April 1935
The dust storm of April 1935
Photo courtesy Louise George
By the time we got there, people were coming in off the highway and gathering there at the Panhandle Inn. That thing rolled in and it wasn’t like a dust cloud coming from out of the sky. It was like something creeping along on the ground, just turning over and over and over. We watched it until it hit the school building there and it just simply rolled over it and just covered it. One minute you could see the school building and the next minute you couldn’t even tell the school building was there. It just simply covered the thing over. It was just an amazing thing to watch.

People kept coming in off the highway and they would have their handkerchiefs over their faces. A lot of people were scared. Curtis said they thought there might be a tornado behind it. There wasn’t though. It was just a black duster. When it rolled in, it got so dark they turned the lights on in there. Lucille and I drove on home after it had blown over, but it was still dusty. There were a whole lot of stories told about that storm, about how people got scared and got religeous and everything else. People really got scared. It was a scary thing. That was a bad one.

There were a lot of sandstorms in those days. You would just wake up and it would be hazy and it would stay that way all day. When it was a red one, they said it came from Colorado. I don’t know that, but that’s what they said. The land was just blowing away. I’ll tell you right now, when Roosevelt came in here and started that soil conservation, it was a God’s blessing to this country. It really was. We’ve never had those bad dust storms since then – not like that.


© Louise George
History by George
- September 14, 2005
Author: Ola Covey is featured in Louise George’s book, Some of My Heroes Are Ladies, Women, Ages 85 to 101, Tell About Life in the Texas Panhandle. Louise can be reached at (806)935-5286 by mail at Box 252, Dumas, TX 79029 or by e-mail at lgeorge@nts-online.net

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