Many people have distinct recollections of the Derecho Storm (which I thought was a hurricane) of July 16, 1980. An impression I am getting from most of the stories were that people had never seen the sky turn a deeper, more depressive shade of green than they had ever seen, either before or since.
Were it not for a loud, electronic smoke detector in our house, I would have slept through it.
I did awaken to a banging sound coming from my window, and recognized quickly it was a significant rain event. However, anticipating our annual family vacation a day later, I was too lazy to arise and see the event for myself.
Then, one huge gust of wind, a loud CRUNCH at my window, and a smoke detector emission later, all was quiet, as most stories have told. Our power was out, which I would have guessed given the outdoor commotion. However, one look at the backyard told me something was indeed out of sorts: our freshly-planted green ash tree in the backyard was uprooted and standing to its side. Half of our cyclone fence lay on the ground. And the crunch I had heard was half our TV antenna detaching itself from its rooftop prominence and smashing into my window.
Fearing neighborhood-wide damage, I finally awoke, along with my parents, and we took a look outside at the street. Surprisingly, all the houses looked intact (they were, at the time, only two years old and built to "last"). But no one on the street had power.
Neither did the neighborhood adjacent to ours. Or the one next to it. It seemed the entire city of Southgate was completely in the dark, even though I had awoken to sunny skies. The Derecho (the weather service's official name for what had hit us) had left as quickly as it came upon us. I had seen green skies only three times in my life, and this was not one of them due to my excessive slumber.
Our biggest concern though was the lack of power; not only to the kitchen appliances that needed it, but to our sump pump downstairs. Being one of the first neighborhoods to require pumps, any pump down longer than a day could result in a basement backup. Somehow, Schafer High School (behind us) had power, and we borrowed a 200-foot extension cord from their shop department, ran it over the downed cyclone fence, and operated our pump, which had about ten minutes' worth of water to drain.
We ended up delaying our vacation by two days, but we could not cancel the trip, having invested heavily in lodging and other preparations. It actually took a great deal of convincing ourselves not to cancel, and two days later, we were on our way to Canada.
What I saw on northbound I-75 just froze me, and explained why we had not had power for three days: all the high-voltage power line pylons were knocked down like dominoes north of the Southfield Road exit, piled next to a train that had been blown off the tracks. Taylor and other suburbs Downriver had incurred more severe damage, as the Ecorse Drive Inn was among the casualties.
To make a long story shorter, it was three days into the vacation before we finally had a "While You Were Out" sticker given to us by the hotel front desk. From our neighbors: "Power back on, everything okay. Don't worry."
I was still too young at the time to realize the extent of the damage done to our area by this fast-moving derecho. But the downed pylons off I-75 were cleaned up by the time we returned the following week; the metal pylons replaced by wooden ones. Observe the pylons on the west side of I-75 between Northline & Outer Drive some time -- when you see the metal ones turn into wooden ones, there is the proof that the 1980 derecho hit and made a permanent mark.