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 www.xcelenergy.com 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 www.foodsafety.gov.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 www.minneapolismn.gov/news.
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 stpaul.gov.
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.
Small uprooted trees can be reset, making sure that the roots remain covered and moist. If staking seems necessary, place stakes evenly around the tree and attach without pulling on the tree, giving the lines a bit of slack.
Remove torn strips of bark just to the point where the damage stops, then make a smooth, clean cut. It's not necessary to paint the wounds with latex paint or shellac to deter insects, except for oaks, which need such immediate treatment during the current oak wilt season.
If a tree has more drastic damage, Johnson suggests hiring an arborist. (Listings are available through the Minnesota Society of Arboriculture, www.msa-live.org.)
REplanting washed-out gardens
There's still time enough to replant flowers and vegetables, said garden writer and former U of M extension horticulturist Deb Brown, but give your drenched soil a chance to dry out.
"It's absolutely too wet right now," she said. To check the soil, take a trowel of dirt and squeeze it in your hand. "If it sticks together like a big mud ball, it's too wet," she said. "It should be a little crumbly."
Garden centers and farmers markets still have plants for sale, but if you buy replacements, look for faster-maturing varieties.
more storms on the way?
Believe it or not, the latest forecast for the Twin Cities area calls for more severe weather. Thunderstorms could pop up late in the day Tuesday and Wednesday. But things could dry out as the weekend nears.