Large, spherical hail pelted the Twin Cities and other parts of Minnesota during thunderstorms that left thousands without power and dented vehicles in its wake early Friday evening.

Many Minnesotans posted photos on social media of the hail pellets. Some were as big as two and a half inches in diameter, according to the National Weather Service. Downtown Minneapolis went dark as night for a few minutes during the storm.

The large thunderstorms that passed through the area created prime conditions for hail that size, Weather Service meteorologist Tyler Hasenstein said.

"We had a pretty good environment for these big, towering supercell thunderstorms, and to get the bigger hail you really need those," he said.

When the storms are so large, the hail pellets grow as strong updrafts connect with the hail and cause it to pick up more ice.

Xcel Energy reported about 19,000 customers lost power at the storm's peak in the Twin Cities metro, with about 4,000 in the west metro and 15,000 in the east metro losing power, Xcel spokesman Kevin Coss said. By 3:30 p.m. Saturday, that number was fewer than 200.

The outages were due to high winds, hail and lightning, and crews are working to restore power "as quickly as possible," he said.

The storm pummeled Plymouth with a "concentrated swath" of hail before cutting through downtown Minneapolis and into St. Paul, Hasenstein said.

At one apartment building parking lot in the Whittier neighborhood of Minneapolis, the majority of parked vehicles had smashed front or rear windows. Vehicles parked on the street fared a little better, possibly because of the tree canopy.

Some residents sent the Weather Service pictures of cars dented by the hail, Hasenstein added.

"Especially once you get above that one and a half- to two-inch hail size, it will definitely cause some damage to vehicles left outside," he said.

Several severe storms were passing through areas east and south of the Twin Cities, but they were expected to wrap up by around 7:30 p.m. Friday, Hasenstein said.

There were a few sporadic reports of trees being downed, but "nothing too crazy" in the Minneapolis area, Hasenstein said. Most of the wind damage was in eastern St. Paul and parts of Woodbury, he added.

Star Tribune reporter Eder Campuzano contributed to this story.