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The Boston Globe

Arts

Television Review

Black blizzards and pneumonia in ‘The Dust Bowl’

Ken Burns’s previous documentary, “Prohibition,” was about America going dry — figuratively. “The Dust Bowl,” which airs Sunday and Monday nights on Channel 2, is about the Great Plains going dry — literally — and blowing away. Parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, and the Dakotas became known as the Dust Bowl during the 1930s, the result of decades of overfarming and protracted drought.

“It was a decade-long natural catastrophe of biblical proportions,” narrator Peter Coyote says, “the worst man-made ecological disaster in American history.” Dayton Duncan wrote the narration. Looking at the still photos and newsreel footage that Burns has assembled, you can believe it. The images are staggering, unreal, days-of-doom terrifying. On numerous occasions, clouds of topsoil would rise a mile in height and extend for hundreds of miles to the north and south.

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