Tens of thousands of people remained without power Sunday and drivers continued to dodge downed trees days after storms strafed the metro area.
But the return of sunny skies was a huge bonus for the more than 1,100 Xcel Energy workers from 14 states working long hours to restore power from Minnesota’s largest electrical outage.
The weekend storms left more than 590,000 homes and businesses in the dark, and it may be until Wednesday afternoon before power is completely restored. As of Sunday evening, 72,500 customers remained without power.
The number of downed trees likely will surpass the 3,200 trees on public property and boulevards in north Minneapolis that were destroyed in a tornado in 2011, said Jayne Miller, superintendent of Minneapolis’ Park and Recreation Board.
The board, with assistance from the city, is responsible for clearing all trees from Minneapolis streets. As of Sunday evening, she said, only eight locations had trees blocking traffic. In those locations, power lines are entangled with the trees, she said.
In St. Paul, police said a few streets in the Highland Park neighborhood remained blocked by fallen trees.
The Minneapolis cleanup has been even more difficult than after the 2011 tornado because the damage wasn’t concentrated in one area, Miller said. Hundreds of trees were damaged in Minneapolis parks and several buildings will need repair, she said, adding that her staff members relied on a generator until about 6 p.m. Sunday in the office they were using to manage the cleanup.
The Park Board replaced those 3,200 trees destroyed in the North Side tornado, and Miller said she would be shocked if the board didn’t decide to do the same for trees lost this weekend.
All downed trees should be removed by the end of the week, she said.
That’s welcome news to James Nyberg, who has lived around the Powderhorn Park neighborhood in south Minneapolis for 30 years. He had a tree ripped out of his front yard, the roots taking part of his sidewalk with them.
There was no damage to his duplex, but the tree landed on his neighbor’s house. He was concerned that children would play under the tree and get hurt if it continues to shift.
“What really amazes me is how many people have stopped by and taken pictures of it,” he said.
His family was sad to see the old tree knocked down because they would mark special occasions by taking a picture in front of it. He said he never believed the tree could ever be destroyed.
New storms, more water
A new band of storms Sunday morning caused significant street flooding in Albertville and St. Michael in Wright County, the National Weather Service reported. Storms dropped up to 2.5 inches of rain in about two hours.
Flooding also was reported Sunday in Glencoe and Winsted in McLeod County after a soaking rain of between 2.5 and 4 inches. One swath from Gibbon to Glencoe to St. Michael received 3 to 6 inches.
The next few days loom as wet ones in much of central and southern Minnesota, according to the Weather Service. Flood watches were issued for the rest of the week.
Most of the remaining power outages are concentrated in Minneapolis and western suburbs, officials said.
Repairs are prioritized based on what will restore power to the largest number of customers the most quickly, as well as to critical facilities such as hospitals, Xcel officials said.
The last remaining outages — those expected to be cleared by Wednesday — can be the most complex, requiring a high level of on-site resources and a high level of safety precautions.
The sheer volume of the destruction has been the biggest challenge for workers, said Patti Nystuen, spokeswoman for Xcel Energy.
The Minneapolis Public Schools canceled summer programs Monday at several buildings that have no power. The schools are Folwell, Lucy Laney, Nellie Stone Johnson and South High School, and the Broadway High School program at Longfellow.
Some traffic lights remained dark, creating dangerous intersections where some motorists drove through instead of stopping. Gawkers looking at the damage gummed up traffic, too.
At W. 22nd Street and Harriet Avenue S. in Minneapolis, where a tree fell across the street and crunched two vehicles, even a city traffic control worker stopped and took a picture.
Nearby, Shelli Hoppke with teen son Preston rode their motor scooter to the Wedge Community Co-op on Lyndale Avenue S.
The power at the business had been restored about 3 a.m. Sunday, so she wanted to check to see if she would be working on Monday.
She had no damage at her Powderhorn Park home, but she was helping out a friend in another neighborhood.
“I’m storing her children’s insulin and making buckets of ice for them,” she said.