YOU ARE HERE >> STORIES >> DERECHO (GREEN STORM) OF 1980
"... The color was unlike anything I ever saw..."
The photo below, added April 27, 2014, is the FIRST photo we have seen of the 1980 Derecho (Green Storm) in progress. A brief account by the photographer - Jerry Van - follows below.
"In a ranch house on Wohlfeil, I was sound asleep with my
feet toward the north facing back bedroom window where my
brother and I watched the skies glow when 3 Sisters, Great
Scott, Federal's and Ray Moulder and a tanker or two lit
"Larry barged into the room, pounced onto the foot of the bed
and leaned atop the high-boy dresser under the window
"IT'S GREEN... LOOK, THE SKY IS GREEN, WAKE UP!.
The next thing I remember is taking this picture after he
moved dad's car so he could pull his Cougar up between
the houses. The mountain ash was uprooted. A lady knocked on
the door some time after asking if we owned a little dog
that had blown into her yard.
"Flooding was a major issue around Champaign and Monroe area
and dry ice was almost nowhere to be found. Thankfully I was
tight with the manager of A&P."
- Jerry Van
Quite possibly the most fearsome event ever to strike Downriver in modern times, the July 16, 1980 storm that swept eastward from Wisconsin took Downriver and southeastern Michigan by total surprise. In just a few short minutes, according to many witnesses, the sky turned from bright to dark-green, and was one of the most horrifying sights they had ever seen. As quick as it appeared, it disappeared, but left destruction in its wake not seen in this side of the state since at least the 1950s.
NOAA Weather's official account of the event:
While the sky was relatively bright at sunrise over Southeast Lower Michigan, a band of foreboding clouds advanced in quickly from the west, covering the celestial dome. As the forceful storms and associated hurricane force winds approached the area, several observers remarked about the horrid dark green color the sky took on as the squall moved overhead. In fact, numerous people over the years have commented about the "dark pea green sky" that accompanied the July 16th 1980 storm. The green color in the sky may have been reflective of the low sun angle at the time (the derecho moved through region between 730 and 930 AM EDT) and abundance of moisture in the low clouds. It got so dark that many street lights were triggered and popped on over portions of the region. Severe thunderstorm warnings were issued over the region though some remarked: "it happened so quickly and early in the day, it caught us off guard".
Notable Downriver damage included the following items:
"Railroad cars blown off track in both directions in Allen Park," most likely along I-94 and Southfield Road.
"Department store roof blown sideways in Lincoln Park," could very well have been the Sears store at Dix & Southfield.
The damage to the arena area at Thunderbowl Lanes in Allen Park, as shown in the top picture. The destruction of the original Ecorse Drive-In Theater in Taylor. Uprooting of nearly two miles of high-voltage power pylons in Lincoln Park and Melvindale, which contributed to a power outage between five and ten days.
"Funnel sighted over Detroit River from Canadian shore. Tornado damage included in, and hardly distinguishable from large area of straight line wind damage. Funnel continued eastward several more miles into Canada".
"I was driving I-94 to Telegraph to pick up my mother from Heritage Hospital. Big green cloud, and terrible. I remember getting off the circle at Telegraph and turning down the street Heritage is on. Got down that street and into the parking lot. Had to decide if I wanted to say in the car or run in the hospital. Hospital won out. They were without power and had to pull the doors open for me. Found out later that I was the last car down the street before 2 trees fell over it! One of those days I will never forget!!"
"I worked at Crowley Milner (which had a location on Clark Street in Detroit) and the guys from the receiving dock came to my office and told me the sky is green. I had to go see. It took me almost two hours to get home after getting near Allen Park because so many trees were across roads. Detour after detour. We were out of power for a week and it was so hot. Our (subdivision) welcomed the ice cream truck every day. They made a killing in our neighborhood."
"Imagine looking out a window from a basement, seeing a green hue engulfing the sky, while trees decades old being bent sideways so hard that their tops were touching the ground, and everything around being blown like pieces of paper. Trash cans, patio furniture, tree limbs flying through the air, power lines arcing on the ground in red and blue flashes...Yes, a sight indeed, and one that I never want to see again."
"Never saw such a sky, the color was unlike anything I ever saw, even from being in a tornado when I was a little girl. The scene from the Wizard of Oz comes to mind, as people started opening their doors, poking their heads outside, yet, still uncertain if it was really over, like when the Munchkins were checking out Dorothy!"
A researcher's version of "irony" was definitely found regarding this particular event... there was scant coverage in the News-Herald of this particular storm. Stories in the Detroit News of July 17, 1980 in fact had more details about the Downriver area than the News-Herald did. But one may admit that a witness of that event may not have thought it would be just as memorable today as it was in 1980. Our viewers may have known more than the news writers did.