A powerful storm moved quickly through the Twin Cities and southern and southeastern Minnesota Tuesday evening, catching many people by surprise as they drove white-knuckled toward home, to the Adele concert or the Twins game.
The storm left behind uprooted and downed trees and large branches, downed power lines and a few flooded roads that not only scared but endangered drivers.
By 7:30 p.m., skies over the Twin Cities were as dark as a November night. After a weak sunset, the scope of the cleanup came into sharper focus. Wednesday should be good weather for that: partly cloudy skies with highs in the mid-80s. More storms are forecast for Thursday.
Wind gusts ranged from nearly 80 miles per hour near Cannon Falls to 60 mph at Crystal and Eden Prairie. Hail the size of golf balls or larger were widely reported.
Late Tuesday, Xcel Energy reported that more than 130,000 customers were without power from the first big storm of the 2016 summer season. By Wednesday morning, the number was at 70,000.
As the storm moved south-southeast, the National Weather Service reported a tornado on the ground in northern Wabasha County and a tornado warning for Pierce and Pepin counties in Wisconsin. It was not clear if the tornado caused significant damage.
Between 7 and 7:30 p.m., seven of every eight calls to law enforcement agencies in the metro area were about downed power lines or sparking, transformers smoking, or trees blocking roads and cars. Near 50th Street and Bryant Avenue S. in Minneapolis, a power pole snapped in half and blocked the road.
The calls came from Owatona to Northfield to Nerstrand to Burnsville, Maple Grove, Roseville, St. Paul, Plymouth, Monticello, Buffalo, Glencoe, and far south, southeast, north and northeast Minneapolis.
In downtown St. Paul, tree branches scattered the roads. In the Midway area, a huge boulevard tree was uprooted and fell across the street into a neighbor’s yard. In Maple Grove, a fully uprooted tree appeared to balance on a parked car.
At Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, about 80 flights were delayed and four were diverted to avoid the fast-moving storms.
Then there were the flash floods.
Ramsey County officials reported that several people had to be rescued from flooded cars in Roseville, and 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.
High winds also forced delays for Northstar trains between Elk River and Big Lake.
As heavy rain hit Target Field, Twins fans were told to take cover; the game was delayed until shortly before 10 p.m.
“It’s going to be wild weather. It’s going to be dangerous,” Ross Carlyon, NWS spokesman, predicted shortly after the storm began.
About 8:30 p.m., some residents saw a bright spot, though, and posted pictures of single and double rainbows on social media.