Bad news, storm-weary Minnesotans: Swift on the heels of Tuesday night’s battering weather, two more rounds of severe weather are expected Thursday.
Showers and thunderstorms, along with fresh blasts of heavy rain, high winds, large hail and potential street flooding, are expected to roll into the metro area at dawn Thursday, then again as the evening rush hour gets into high gear.
The new forecast arrived as residents of the Twin Cities and other parts of southern Minnesota sweated out a sunny, steamy Wednesday cleaning up debris, repairing damaged roofs and stashing freezer food for neighbors left with no power. While minor to moderate damage was widespread, no deaths or injuries were reported.
At the storm’s height, 250,000 households statewide were left in the dark, according to Xcel Energy, 130,000 of them in the metro area. The tempest was especially terrifying in the north metro community of Rogers, where two high-voltage power lines came down, trapping residents inside their homes for hours.
Mother Nature’s wild side took a short break Wednesday, but the threat of more rough weather quickly returned. Late Wednesday, the National Weather Service in Chanhassen issued a severe thunderstorm watch for southwestern Minnesota for 2 a.m., and a strong chance of storms developing in and around the Twin Cities thereafter and up to 6 a.m.
But the biggest risk of hazardous weather in the Twin Cities area will come between 3 and 9 p.m. Thursday, said National Weather Service meteorologist Tony Zaleski. Rain, gusty winds and hail are likely.
Will Thursday’s bursts of fierce weather rival Tuesday night’s storm? There’s no way to tell, Zaleski said.
“We are under an enhanced risk, and we will have to see how it unfolds,” he said. “Severe weather is really tough to forecast.”
That’s not the news residents in Rogers wanted to hear, even after Xcel crews were able to clear several county roads and city streets blocked by power lines that shut down east-west traffic and cut off Rogers, Hanover and St. Michael from metro cities to the south.
The situation was so dire at one point late Wednesday that Police Chief Jeff Beahen asked motorists to avoid driving on the city’s south side and urged people to stay away or stay home.
As more than 40 workers cleared the downed lines that stretched 8 miles through western Hennepin and eastern Wright counties, Xcel crews also worked to restore power to other hard-hit parts of the metro area.
By 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, the number of metro area customers without electricity had dropped to 28,000, down from the more than 130,000 who lost power as the storms rolled through between 5 and 9 p.m. Tuesday. Hundreds of other households, mostly to the south and east of the Twin Cities, also remained without power as dusk arrived. Across the region, the buzz of chain saws and thrum of generators replaced the howl of the wind and pounding of rain.
High winds ripped siding off homes in St. Michael and Prior Lake, felled a 100-year-old tree with a 2-foot diameter in Elko, dropped ping-pong-ball-sized hail in Burnsville and “blew a 6-inch tree into and through a house like a torpedo” in Faribault, the Weather Service said.
More than 2 to 3 inches of rain in less than an hour in places turned many streets and intersections into raging rivers. Water submerged vehicles at the intersection of Hwy. 36 and Fairview Avenue near the Rosedale Shopping Center and had sewers gushing like geysers in Columbia Heights and northeast Minneapolis.
First responders in Fridley rescued five to six people from cars when water quickly rose to a depth of 4 to 5 feet on University Avenue near 47th Avenue NE. Several people reported finding their cars suddenly floating. One woman said she walked in armpit-deep water to safety, escorted by a state trooper; her vehicle and others were likely a total loss.
Tuesday night’s Twins game at Target Field was delayed until nearly 10 p.m., about three hours later than normal. The Twins offered free tickets to another game for fans who didn’t stay for the game.
Tuesday’s storms also cut a wide swath through southern Minnesota. Tornadoes were reported near Appleton, Dennison, Lake City and Wabasha, the National Weather Service said. In other places, heavy rains, large hail and winds clocked between 60 and 80 miles per hour raced across towns and fields, leaving a path of debris from the Annandale, Monticello and Buffalo areas eastward through the Twin Cities and into western Wisconsin.
Everywhere, people helped
Echoing the poststorm flood of appeals for help and generous responses, Mitch Reaume of Crystal put out an appeal for help with cleaning up a large tree that had fallen in his front yard.
“Dear friends with chain saws … Can we please borrow?” he wrote in a Facebook post. “Let me know if you have a chain saw. The more the merrier. And if you want to come and help, that is a super bonus.”
On Wednesday, the storm’s aftermath brought a flood of comfort and help among neighbors. After cleaning up his own yard at 3rd Street and 22nd Avenue NE. in Minneapolis, Drew Aeschilman removed piles of debris and branches from a yard of a woman who recently moved into the area, but whom he hadn’t yet met.
“It’s kind of, you know, friendly Northeast,” Aeschilman said.
Minnesota Department of Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman urged people who experienced storm damage to contact their insurance companies as soon as possible. He also recommended that property owners take pictures of the damage, keep good records and make temporary inexpensive repairs to prevent further damage.
When storms moved out Tuesday, a double rainbow developed outside the Weather Service office in Chanhassen, ushering in sunny Wednesday. But with Thursday’s forecast, the sunshine was a brief respite.