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'Storm of Storms' for Canton Woman

Cheryl Dell said Monday's storm is the third to hit her property this year.

The minute Cheryl Dell saw the ugly black cloud approaching Monday, she moved fast, snatching up her dog and hunkering down in a half bathroom at the center of her Lilley Road home.

"It was the storm of storms," she said later, standing on her porch after surveying the damage. A few doors north, red flashing lights from Canton fire trucks flickered around the neighborhood. Firefighters and police were watching an area where power lines had been snapped by neighbors' fallen trees. At its peak, more than 4,000 DTE customers in Canton were without power .

Neighbor Greg Hester assessed Dell's yard from across the street, where he was also watching fire and police crews.

"Her yard was first class," he said of the landscaping before the storm. "It was just like a picture out of Better Homes and Gardens."

From 'Picture Perfect' to Ruins

Elizabeth Schuch walked to Dell's house Monday evening to check on her neighbor. 

"In all my years here, I've never seen anything like this," she said.

What she saw, all around Dell's 1-acre lot Monday, was evidence of ferocious winds, which toppled a prized blue spruce, planted in 1964. Nearby, box elders were splintered. Across the yard, a massive maple tree stood surrounded by its own torn branches and in the backyard, splits marked an expansive catalpa. Branches, leaves and shattered bark littered the lawn.

"There's a lot of bucket work that needs to be done," Dell sighed, referring to the tree surgeons she'll have to call for help. She's become a familiar customer this year; just last week a crew finished clearing damage from an earlier storm. An earlier storm did the least damage, so far, she said.

"I've never been through anything like this," said Dell, a retired teacher. "Not even the Green Storm took a tree down."

The Green Storm, which happened on July 16, 1980, got its name because the sky turned an eerie green shade as the system developed. That storm carried winds well over 100 miles an hour, according to the National Weather Service records. 

'All is no more'

Dell has lived in her home since 1976, when she and her late husband bought the property from his parents. The home was built in 1957 and her in laws bought the property in 1964, she said.

"That blue spruce was a gift to them when they bought the house. I had a beautiful rock garden under it, with glass balls and birdbaths," she said, trailing off, then adding softly, "All is no more."

It all happened in less than five minutes, she said, when she and her dog were hiding in the bathroom.

Dell said she was unaware of the extent of damage until a couple who had been walking nearby knocked on her patio door. "I didn't even know these people," she said, adding that she first thought they might need shelter from the rain. "But they said they just wanted to check and see if I was OK. I said, 'Yeah, I'm OK, why shouldn't I be?"

Then she looked at her yard. The box elder had blocked her garage door and hit part of her roof, though the house appeared undamaged Monday evening.

"I think the this storm hit all my neighbors, but I seem to have gotten the worst of it," she said.

Parade of Onlookers

The storm had brought a steady stream of people to her door since the two strangers knocked, from reporters to relatives and even a team of investigators from the National Weather Service. As she spoke, a Channel 7 Action News truck idled in her driveway. She said WXYZ-TV, Channel 7 reporter Cheryl Chodun was "very nice," but Dell said she didn't want to go on camera because she'd been working in her yard, assessing damage.

"But look," she said, pointing to a parade of cars making slow passes by her house, including one van with its side door open. "It's been like this all day."

The fact that the area was without power didn't seem to phase Dell in the least. "If it rains, we lose power," she said with a chuckle. "I have a generator."

Losing the blue spruce is another story. "I'll have to get another one," she said. "I've got to have my blue spruce."

Ann July 12, 2011 at 08:08 PM
I remember the "Green Storm" like it was yesterday. It was a hot and humid morining when all of a sudden the sky turned an eerie dark green color just before a very powerful wind unexpectedly blew through the house. My little girl was watching her favorite children's TV show and my son was at Gallimore School ( We had extended school year during the early 80's). We hardly had a chance to get to the basement before we realized that the TV and the lights had flickered off leaving us in the dark. By the time the wind and the rain stopped the mothers in the neighborhood who had children in school were very upset to learn that the police had blocked Sheldon Road off so that they could not get out of the subdivision to get their kids at school. Worse yet, they could not get through by phone to the school to find out if everyone was OK. Eventually we found that the kids were safe and not as scared as some of the parents. We all still remember that day in July, 1980 that we call the "Green Sorm".
Jerry Grady July 14, 2011 at 02:58 PM
I live right in this area and i can tell you that after surveying the whole area and seeing what was done, no 70 mph wind would do this. I had a large tree split at the bottom and moved five feet from where it was and it is in a wetland area. This was obviously a high level tornado that was missed by the National Weather Service. The way the trees are ripped out and the way the larger trees snapped, no way a wind of that nature would do that. We have had those winds before and never had this many trees down. Drive thru the all three subs in that area and you will see what i mean.
Geri Lemming January 11, 2013 at 06:55 PM
We have just arrived the day before, we flew in from Colorado to see my mother. My husband has never been out of the state of Colorado. I think he thought I took him to the land of Hell the next morning. I was raised in Dearborn and my mother was still living in the same home. I remember going up and down the stairs from the basement and looking out the sliding glass window. It was definitely an eerie green an quite scary. After it had passed, there were trees uprooted everywhere. We walk the neighborhood, one of my mom's neighbors had a flagpole in their front yard. When I seen it bent in half, it blew my mind. I thought it was a tornado, not just high winds. At that point we were not aware of the large area it has covered. Well, one thing I know... That was a vacation none of us in the family will never forget.

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