Spring ... falls: Rare snowstorm cuts power to thousands
A record-breaking May snowstorm wreaked havoc across southeastern Minnesota Thursday, dashing hopes that last weekend's warm weather meant spring had finally arrived.
Around 13 inches of thick, wet snowfall was recorded in Red Wing, according to data reported to the National Weather Service..
The weight of the snow brought down trees and powerlines, cutting power to residents and businesses.
Emergency dispatchers took calls from homeowners throughout the morning reporting arcing electricity and flames caused by downed lines in backyards.
As many as 2,600 Red Wing customers were without power as of 9 a.m. Thursday, said Patti Nystuen, media relations with Xcel Energy. That number nearly doubled by the afternoon.
Xcel crews were still working to restore power to around 72 Red Wing customers Friday, Nystuen said, adding that the storm cut power to nearly 60,000 Xcel customers across southeastern Minnesota.
Dock shelters at Ole Miss Marina also collapsed under the weight of the snow Thursday morning, pinning boats under wood and metal debris.
"As soon as one went, they all started to go like dominos," said Rusty Mathiasmeier, captain of the Sight-Sea-Er II docked at the marina.
Meanwhile, Red Wing Public Works crews fought to keep roadways open amidst dozens of reports of spin-outs and stuck semis. Main roads were clear by the afternoon Thursday, but stoplights remained out for several hours along Highway 61.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation issued multiple roadway warnings, advising motorists to avoid travel on highways due to heavy snow, slush and poor visibility.
The dangerous weather also closed schools across Goodhue County, as well as Mayo Clinic Health System offices in Ellsworth and Zumbrota.
Thursday's storm smashed Red Wing's previous one-day May snowfall record of 2 inches set in 1954, according to National Weather Service data.
Red Wing did not declare a snow emergency, but announced the city's incinerator would open for extended hours this weekend to help residents dispose of branches from downed trees.
The incinerator, 1873 Bench St., will be open 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Brush and trees will be accepted at no charge, according to a city press release.
In addition, Public Works and private contractors will be going through the city removing dangerous hanging branches from boulevard trees, as well as limbs from trees on private property if they can be reached from the street.
Branches can be placed on boulevards for pickup by the city over the coming days, Public Works said.
Nearby Ellsworth and Bay City/Hager City faced similar problems Thursday with 16 inches of snowfall reported, according to the Pierce County Herald.
Power was still out for around 950 Pierce Pepin Cooperative Services members Friday afternoon as crews worked throughout the day to repair lines and set new poles damaged by heavy snow and falling trees.
But it was Goodhue that was among the hardest hit cities in the region with 17.5 inches of snowfall reported to the National Weather Service. That was second only to the 18 inches of snow that fell on Blooming Prairie, south of Owatonna, Minn..
The National Weather Service is forecasting rain for the rest of the weekend.
April weather roundup
April ended on a warm note, but dreary cold had residents wondering what happened to spring.
Average temperatures were below 40 degrees on 18 of the first 24 days of the month. Daily lows hovered around freezing for a majority of days.
It wasn't until April 26 did spring start to show its face, with temperatures reaching a comparatively balmy 73 degrees.
The heat wave continued through the last weekend in the month, peaking with a high of 77 degrees April 28.
The beginning of May saw the return of winter-like conditions, but the Old Farmer's Almanac predicts mostly fair and wet conditions for the remainder of the month.
Sources: U.S. Lock & Dam No. 3 and Red Wing waste water treatment plant