Storms take down powerlines throughout regionStorms packing high winds tore down major electricity transmission structures in southwestern Minnesota late Friday afternoon and evening and damaged distribution systems in a swath of Minnesota stretching from eastern South Dakota through western Wisconsin, knocking power out to nearly 100,000 Xcel Energy customers in the Upper Midwest.
MINNEAPOLIS - Storms packing high winds tore down major electricity transmission structures in southwestern Minnesota late Friday afternoon and evening and damaged distribution systems in a swath of Minnesota stretching from eastern South Dakota through western Wisconsin, knocking power out to nearly 100,000 Xcel Energy customers in the Upper Midwest.
Crews worked through Friday night, and by Saturday afternoon had restored power to about 85,000 customers. By late Saturday afternoon, approximately 4,200 Xcel Energy customers remained without power in the Twin Cities metro area; about 8,100 Xcel Energy customers remained without power in an area extending from St. Cloud and Monticello in central Minnesota, southwest to Montevideo and Pipestone.
"All available crews -- more than 100 workers -- were in the field Saturday, and we are seeking assistance from neighboring utilities in order to get power restored as quickly as possible," said Bill Kaphing, control center vice president, who oversees Xcel Energy's electricity distribution operations in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. "Crews will work around-the-clock through this holiday weekend and beyond if necessary until we are back to normal service levels. As always, we urge customers to stay away from downed power lines and call us immediately to report them at 1-800-895-4999."
Xcel Energy officials expected to restore power to the vast majority of customers by late Sunday. But it could take until Monday or Tuesday to restore power to all customers west and southwest of the Twin Cities due to the extensive grid damage. Because Xcel Energy's transmission system serves other electricity providers - including cooperatives and municipal utilities - customers of those entities also could be without power until parts of the transmission system destroyed by the storms are rebuilt.
Among transmission lines crews worked to repair Saturday were those serving Xcel Energy customers in Renville, Danube and Yellow Medicine and Renville-Sibley Cooperative's customers in Emmet and Crooks.
Outside the Twin Cities, Xcel Energy crews worked Saturday to restore power to communities in:
* The St. Cloud area, including St. Cloud, Monticello, Howard Lake, Cokato, Dassel, Annandale, Maple Lake, Kimball, Watkins, Albany, Avon, Sartell, Sauk Rapids and Foley.
* Southwest Minnesota along and north of U.S. Hwy 212, including Sacred Heart, Renville, Danube, Bird Island, Hector, Buffalo Lake, Stewart, Brownton and Cosmos.
* An area northwest of Redwood Falls, including Cottonwood, Wood Lake, Belview, Echo, Hanley Falls and Hazel Run.
Among communities where restoration work could continue into Monday are St. Cloud, Sauk Rapids, Sartell, Annandale, Cokato and Dassel, as well as several communities near Montevideo: Belview, parts of Bird Island and the Cosmos area.
The storms toppled more than 50 transmission structures and poles. Miles of transmission lines were strewn across farm fields, roads and railroad tracks. Crews were assessing damage Saturday by helicopter.
Restoration work in rural areas was hampered by saturated soil and muddy conditions. Also, crews first had to respond to public safety concerns by removing transmission line debris from roads and intersections before they could focus on power restoration.
Xcel Energy's transmission crews first were working on sections of the grid that serve residential and business customers on its and other electricity providers' distribution systems. Once those sections of the transmission system are restored, distribution crews will begin restoring power to individual customers, which could continue into next week. Some customers may need to contact an electrician to repair a pipe-like housing called a mast that connects service wires to their meter before Xcel Energy can restore power to their home or business.
Transmission lines that transfer power from wind farms on Buffalo Ridge in southwestern Minnesota - which do not directly serve homes and business -- also sustained extensive damage. Rebuilding that part of the electricity grid could take as long as a month.