The 10 Year Apocalyptic Nightmare That Inspired ‘Interstellar’ and Almost Annihilated the Midwest

In this April 18, 1935, file photo provided by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration from the George E. Marsh Album, a dust storm approaches Stratford, Texas. (AP Photo/NOAA George E. Marsh Album, File)

During the 1930’s, the Midwest had transformed into a living hell.

If you happened to see Christopher Nolan’s ambitious science fiction film Interstellar, set in the year 2067you’ll remember the first few scenes featuring interviews of Dust Bowl survivors. Although the film is primarily fictional, those interviews are actual clips of survivors telling their harrowing tales.

This period in American history is known as the “Dirty Thirties.” Prairie towns were literally swallowed whole during the Great Depression by massive dust storms–some measuring 200 miles wide.

There was no escape from this 10 year apocalyptic nightmare.

People living in these parts thought it was the end of the world. Countless people became sick, died from pneumonia or malnutrition, which eventually led to the biggest migration in US history in such a short period of time. Approximately three and half million people abandoned their land in New Mexico, Arkansas, Colorado, Texas, Iowa, Missouri, Oklahoma and Kansas.

Aside from just killing off crops and livestock, the Dust Bowl also brought with it famished Jack rabbits and plagues of violent locusts.

If you still think the Dust Bowl was a natural disaster, think again. It was actually the most severe man-made environmental calamity in US history.

Poor farming practices, severe drought and record high temperatures were just the icing on the cake.

Interested in learning more about the Great Depression and the catastrophic events surrounding this disaster? Check out the Ken Burns documentary Dust Bowl.

Photography via The Library of Congress and The Denver Post