Tips for getting help with storm damage recovery

  • Updated: June 24, 2013 - 11:07 PM

After a weekend of storms, Twin Cities homeowners are still scrambling to clean up and return to normal. Here is a guide on whom to call for help, and what to do to help yourself recover from the damage.

when power fails

About 24,500 Xcel Energy customers still had no power late Monday. Since the storms first hit late Friday, more than 600,000 customers lost electricity from downed power lines. Crews from 14 states converged on Minnesota to fix what Xcel called its worst outage ever. It’s hoping everyone will be up and running by Wednesday. To see a map of power outages and report one to Xcel, go to its website at or call the outage line at 1-800-895-1999. If you have an emergency situation such as a broken branch on an electric wire, call 1-800-895-4999.

Food out after four hours

It could take as little as four hours for some of the food in your refrigerator to go bad if the power fails.

Anything perishable — such as raw meat, cooked foods or soft cheeses — that’s been warmer than 40 degrees for four hours should be discarded, because bacteria grow in temperatures from 40 to 140 degrees.

“We want to be sure people don’t needlessly put themselves at risk,” said Craig Hedberg, a professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota. “The problem is that big storms in the summer are often accompanied by hot weather, and it puts more stress on the whole system.”

Fresh produce in the refrigerator generally can be saved, though prewashed packaged greens should be discarded, as should anything that’s been in contact with raw meat juices. Freezers will stay cold longer, up to 24 hours for one that’s half full, 48 hours for a full one. If frozen foods are thawed or partially thawed, they can be refrozen if the food still has ice crystals. The quality may be affected by refreezing, but it should be safe to eat.

For a list of safety guidelines for specific foods, go to

Driving light-free

Monday’s commutes were tangled by intersections with signal lights out. By law, those intersections become a four-way stop. Be defensive and watch for confused drivers, and don’t go through intersections without stopping.

Dumping tree debris

Minneapolis: A curbside tree debris collection is planned for July 1-12. To report a tree blocking a sidewalk or a street, e-mail or call 612-313-7710. Residents may bring yard tree debris to two locations, one in north Minneapolis and one at Fort Snelling, until June 29. Small branches and pieces of brush can go into the regular weekly waste collection. For information, go to

St. Paul: To have tree debris collected from the curb, residents must notify the forestry hot line at 651-632-5129 and debris must be placed on the curb by Friday. It may take up to three weeks to collect. For more information go to

Ramsey County: Four of the county’s yard waste collection sites — Arden Hills, Frank and Sims, Midway and White Bear Township — will be open two extra days this week to collect tree and shrub waste from county residents. Hours are noon to 7 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday and Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Call 651-633-EASY (3279) if you have questions or need directions.

Dealing with damaged trees

When decades of tree growth are undone in a moment, reparations can seem daunting.

Gary Johnson, a forest resources professor at the University of Minnesota, says homeowners can correct minor damage. Small branches that have been damaged extensively should be pruned, but only to the “branch collar,” or the slightly thicker point at which the damaged branch joins another branch or the tree’s truck. Pruning a branch flush with the tree surface risks exposing the trunk to decay.

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