Severe Storms Cause Power Outages, Xcel Customers Express Outrage, Gratitude

Credit Andrea Miller Minnesota.CBSLocal.com

The evening of July 5, 2016 brought severe storms through Minnesota, bringing wind gusts of over 65mph, torrential rains that flooded streets and thousands of power outages around the Twin Cities Metro and Greater Minnesota.

Outages due to severe weather in Minnesota

(Last updated: 7/6/16 6:47 AM CST) – Xcel Energy crews worked overnight to assess damage and restore power, after a major line of thunderstorms hit Minnesota Tuesday evening, producing high winds, lightning and heavy rain. More than 250,000 customers were impacted by the storms since it began. Crews have been able to restore power to about 173,000 customers, with about 77,000 customers currently without service.

Due to the extensive damage to the power grid, we expect that outages from this storm will take considerable time to repair and many customers will experience an extended, multiple day outage. Xcel Energy is doing all that it can to make the needed repairs and restore power as quickly as is possible. We’ve called in additional crews and are engaging contractors and mutual aid crews to assist in the repair and restoration process.

~ “Severe Weather Impacting Minnesota and Wisconsin Service Territories” Xcel Energy, 7/6/16 6:48am

Ramsey and Hennepin counties reported the highest numbers of affected customers with over 18,000 and 36,000 people still without power.  Xcel Energy also has stated that due to the large number of outages, restoration could take multiple days.

Xcel Energy Power Outage Map, 7am 7/6/2016
Xcel Energy Power Outage Map, 7am 7/6/2016

The storms cut a wide swath across Minnesota that could make restoring power a difficult task.  As one lineman (requesting to remain anonymous) stated, “Some of the outages are caused by transmission lines going down; in that case, Xcel will re-route the line and power will come back up.  But in other cases, trees may have taken the feeder or distribution lines down, which means that we have to not only cut away the tree and repair the lines, but also sometimes we have to replace the pole, too.  If the damage is in someone’s backyard, it can take a while to get the equipment back there and in really tough situations, it can take an entire day to replace a single pole.” When asked if Xcel seemed to be prepared for the storm, the lineman said that he and his coworkers (who work for a contractor company) had been instructed to “have a bag packed and ready to go” when they left their regular jobs – updating and maintaining the power grid – on Tuesday. At the time of the interview last night they were “just waiting for the call to come in.”  When the call does come, the linemen crews work (16+ hour days) around the clock until power is restored.

Xcel Energy fielded tweets from customers asking when their electricity would be back on. Some tweets expressed anger at the perceived slow response to the outages, others worried about food in refrigerators going bad, while some accused Xcel of giving wealthy areas priority when restoring power.

jerkgirl tweet

Some chose to be a bit more creative with their requests:


Joy and gratitude were expressed by those who had their power restored:

“People just don’t think about electricity until it goes out,” the lineman stated, “and then they seem to think there’s just a big switch that gets pulled to put it back on, when that’s just not the case.  At least here (in Minnesota), generally we’ll have power up in a few days; I’ve worked hurricanes – like Hurricane Ike in ’08  – where people went weeks without power – the devastation was so massive that we were replacing miles of lines and it took a long time to restore power.  ‘Lighting up a town’ (restoring power) and then going door-to-door to tell people to check if their electricity works after they’ve been without it for a week or more is really cool – their excitement is just awesome to see.  Hurricane Sandy (2012) hit right around Halloween, so the people had a lot of candy leftover.  We would go out to work and come back to our trucks and they’d be covered with bags of candy left by the people in the neighborhood. It was nice to know they were happy to have us there.”

The lineman added, “One way people can help avoid power outages is to keep trees that are near powerlines trimmed so if they do come down in a storm, they won’t take the lines down with them.”

For more photos of the July 5, 2016 storms and the damage they caused, click here.