16 years since Blackout: Metro Detroiters recall moment power went out


It's been 16 years since a major power outage put 50 million people from Detroit to New York in the dark.

About 50 million people lost power Aug. 14, 2003, when a tree branch in Ohio started an outage that cascaded across a broad swath from Michigan to New England and Canada.

More: 16 years ago: Blackout hits Metro Detroit, Northeast putting 50 million in dark

Everyone who experienced the blackout remembers where they were when the lights went out. We asked our Facebook fans to tell us about their moment. Here are some of the stories we received:

Some made the best of it

Cyndi Ferrante-Paradiso: All our neighbors and us took out the BBQ’s and started cooking our food that was in the fridge/freezer. Kids were all outside playing street hockey, etc. We made a block party out of it. Good times!

Dan Post: In hindsight it was awesome. Was living in an apartment complex in Troy and all the neighbors came out talked, grilled, drank, it was great. Power went back on, barely ever saw them again.

Dennis Watson: Summer between high school and my first year of college. It was a great opportunity to see the stars in the city for once.

Mary Jo Seguin Chartrand: Yeah, I was at our Airstream trailer at a resort park overlooking Lake Huron. We were all out gathering in the street, decided we had to cook up all the food in our fridges and freezers. We had a huge neighborhood cookout. I had several containers of water, so I was able to flush my toilet. I had solar lights and brought a couple in each night to at least have a little light. I love to read and had several reading lights I bought on sale, so I was a happy camper.

Some were driving or traveling

Barbara Sierens Kennedy: I remember that. I had just driven away from my house and noticed all of a sudden that traffic lights everywhere were out. What an exciting trip across town THAT was!

Sara Assenmacher: I was at Cedar Point and all of a sudden the rides stopped. Then all the light were out on the drive home.. weird. I happened to be with my friend and her brothers. When the power was out at their house when we got to her brothers had an “eat everything in the fridge” party.

Leah Hilbelink Burney: Yes! My family was headed to Canada to go camping and couldn’t figure out why the traffic was heavy getting there. We had no idea this was happening because we didn’t have electricity at our campsite.

Glenda Beauregard: I was on my way to work couldn't figure out why none of the traffic lights were working and I couldn't get a radio station in to tell me what's going on.

Angela Marie: Watched the whole thing unfold on the news while vacationing in Hawaii. Picked the best week for vacation!

Coreen Izworski: Our family was getting ready to go to Chicago for a family wedding. I was ironing and my husband was filling up the car at the gas station. Power went out with the nozzle in his hand. He had to siphon gas from the tractor and lawn mowers to get us out of town.

Some people were in labor

Jenny Knapp: My daughter entered this world at the exact time the lights went out. She has had that effect ever since! Happy sweet 16 Nat Waters

Some people were at work

Susan Lundy Byberg: I was working at PetSmart at the time. I was there all night to ensure no robbery and to scoop the fish tanks every hour or else the fish would’ve died without oxygen. We used the forklift to the light the area! In between scooping the tanks we grilled out outside the store and played cards! It was a great night!!

Scott Bolthouse: Working at Subway in Allen Park. We were trying everything we could to figure out how to save the food. I’ll never forget coming home later to a completely dark neighborhood. Not one light anywhere for miles. It was crazy and spooky.

Carol Klimek: Westland, MI. Had just arrived for my first day of work at Lonestar Steak house. Remember thinking it was an omen that I shouldn't work there, LOL

Some saw good, bad and ugly

Mary Adragna: I was living in Almont. We were at the line where it became a brown out. People were living in their cars in our public parking lots. Both my kids worked at McDs. It was the first one open on North Van Dyke. They were lined up in the streets as well as the gas stations. I drove back and forth to Lapeer getting bottled water for their employees as they could not use the tap water. There were fist fights over the direction of cars at the gas pumps. It was chaos. When everyone left town, it looked like a war zone. I lived right on main street so I could see it all.

Xhuljan Popaj: I remember this happening. I was living in hamtramck. Everyone started to panic talking about a possible terror attack. I remember hearing about all these stores getting broken into. People rushing to get supplies. Panic mode all over the city. Then at night I remember hearing gun shots coming from all over the city.

Kelly Briskey Lee: Preparing for our annual dream cruise party. Freaking out what to do with all good. Called Menards in Kalamazoo and found a generator. It just so happened some guy from Ferndale was there delivered it full of gas!! Gotta love nice people could have kept it. It was paid over the phone.

Do you remember what you were doing when the lights went out?

Posted by WDIV Local 4 / ClickOnDetroit on Wednesday, August 14, 2019

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