Smoke from the Midwest Hides York County Sun
I am gradually transcribing my father’s diaries from the 1930s, 40s and 50s. As did many others, he ended each day’s entry with a weather report. I was intrigued by the entries of October 31st through November 3rd, 1952. Each read “Fair, Smoky.”
Those entries sent me to the newspaper microfilm at York County Heritage Trust. I was surprised to see that the smoke obscuring the sun on those otherwise fair days came from forest fires hundreds of miles or more to the west. The nation was in the midst of a record drought, and the front pages of the local papers carried headlines such as:
More than 400,000 acres were burned in Missouri alone. One article named that state, along with Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana, the worst hit, but most of the rest of the states were in danger. Hunting was banned many places, including Pennsylvania, to keep people out of the extremely dry woods.
The caption to the photo above, from the microfilm of the November 3, 1952 Gazette and Daily explains how difficult it was to take a photograph of the smoky conditions:
“SMOKE CLOUDS SUN–A haze of smoke drifted over York County Saturday from spreading forest fires throughout much of the nation and the weatherman predicted yesterday that southeast Pennsylvania’s parched forests would go without rain for several more days.
The above photograph shows the effect of the smoke in blocking out the rays of the sun. Shot directly into the sun with a Speed-Graphic press camera set at f22 at 100, the picture was taken at 3 p.m. yesterday from the roof of the Gazette and Daily building. Under normal light conditions, the photography would have resulted in only a gigantic white blur over the entire film plate if taken at the setting used, a normal one for outdoor pictures in good light. Smoke gave the sun a reddish hue.”
Click here for a 1928 York County forest fire.