Life without power for many metro residents

My morning tweet got quite a few responses from frustrated Twin Cities residents still without power after several days.

I also heard from Nick Gasper of Crystal, who has a toddler and a baby. Here are the highlights of his adventure (note: the MPR endorsement was unprompted, and I didn’t even ask if he’s an MPR member):

Friday night our lights went out. That’s ok, I was expecting that. We are new to our neighborhood, but had gone through the chaos when the tornado hit North Minneapolis. I ventured out that night in order to get some batteries and towels for our soaked basement floor. I saw a flurry of activity; Xcel trucks racing around, and tree crews had already chopped up a huge tree that had fallen nearby. Due to the flooding I couldn’t go too far, but appeared that all of the services hit my area hard, and we’re in crisis/containment mode. It was an interesting night, the headlights on my beater aren’t very good, and I almost ran into a tree on Winnetka. South of Medicine Lake was flooded out, so I turned around and headed home.

We spent a dark, hot night at home listening to MPR on our battery powered radio in candlelight.

I went shopping at the Target in Crystal. It was running at half power, and there were far fewer people than I thought would be there. They lost their fridges and freezers so, no food.

The next day, we waited patiently for power. My neighbor had a tree down, resting on some power lines. I saw her flag down a tree removal crew, they came, chatted with her, and promptly left. I found out later that they told her that she was “on the list” but they lacked “the proper grounding equipment to remove the tree” as it was all in use on other sites.  Note that this is my recollection of her recollection, so may not be accurate.

About three hours later, the power came back on, with the tree still on the line. Five minutes after that, our neighbor yelled at us to bring in our dogs, as there was smoke, and some small amount of fire. The fire trucks showed up, but by that time, the fire was out, and we heard a loud bang which sounded like thunder. I’ve heard transformers explode before, so I assume that’s what it was. The firemen yelled something about a fire on 34th and Douglas. The power went out.

And stayed off.

We spent Saturday at the Extended Stay America in Brooklyn Center.  Sunday morning, after I went home to check on the dogs, I saw that the tree was still on the line. I talked with my wife, and we determined that the best thing was for her to take the kids to Willmar, and stay with her sister. I spent the rest of Sunday cleaning up, and the night at my sister’s house.

Throwing out all my food was heartbreaking.

I still have some cleanup to do, but I’m looking forward to moving on from this. Parting thoughts, in no particular order:

1) I think Xcel’s line crews and the tree removal companies did good jobs with what they had. Obviously they could’ve had more equipment on hand.

2) Xcel needs to work on their communications. Having an outage map that says nothing, and is made up of pins is frustrating. Whoever runs their twitter account deserves a nice vacation, because they did not help him or her out in the least.

3) Crystal/New Hope emergency services was amazing, as usual. They were out containing traffic, 20 minutes after the storm

Tim Nelson did an excellent round-up of the storm damage on Morning Edition, and my colleague, Sasha Aslanian, is out roaming the metro today talking to the power-less. Hang in there!