Saturday, February 22, 2020


Cleanup begins after violent storms roll through north metro

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A neighborhood in Andover was particularly hard-hit by the storm, with at least 14 homes damaged. (MPR Photo/Sam Choo)
Thousands of residents in the Twin Cities are without power after Wednesday night's storms. A Minneapolis man was killed after being hit by a falling tree branch. Strong winds, rain and hail caused extensive damage, particularly in the northern suburbs. At least 10 school districts called off classes on Thursday because of a combination of power outages and impassable streets. The hardest hit community appears to be Andover, in Anoka County, where about a dozen homes are uninhabitable because of storm damage.

Andover, Minn. — Dozens of damaged and uprooted trees filled the air with the scent of pine, as residents of Andover surveyed the damage caused by Wednesday night's storms. Streets were filled with debris, including tree limbs, siding, and a backyard swingset. People could see right into some houses that were torn apart by the wind.

"It just got really dark, and a little after seven o'clock the rain started coming and I saw on the TV that it was red in the Andover area," said Margaret Lantta, outside her home in southeastern Andover. "And so we ran down our basement and we could hear the rain, the wind, the hail. And, I don't know what time it was -- probably 7:20, 7:30. All of a sudden, our whole house shook, and that was it.

"And I knew it was bad, and the power was out at that time. We just looked in our backyard and saw our fence was gone, and then we looked at our neighbor's house. I saw that their house was gone, and then we looked to the other side of us, and I saw that, that house was gone too. I noticed that we had broken windows in our house, and I opened our door that leads into our garage, and I noticed that our garage was gone."

About a half-mile away, with his family safe in the basement, Bob Hickey watched the storm from his kitchen window.

"The trees in our front yard, we've got that little three-tree growth, and they were just whirling around like helicopter blades," he said. "And I saw the hail hitting the window, and then I put my hand on the window and the window actually got pushed towards me, and that's when I said, 'I gotta get downstairs.' So, I started heading down, but then our door, which was deadbolted, flew open. So, the door bowed in enough to pull the deadbolt out. So, then I tried to get that closed to keep the water from coming in the house, but then I went downstairs and then, two minutes later, it was gone. It was just raining again."

Darryl Dalen lives on Palm Street. While his property sustained only minimal damage, his neighbor's garage was destroyed.

"It's kind of strange when you look at it. Some houses didn't get very much damage, other ones got quite a bit damaged. It was almost like the storm picked and chose, but obviously it doesn't. But, it's the luck of the draw, as they say. I got lucky, other homeowners didn't get nearly as lucky."

Other nearby communities were impacted as well. Blaine officials say 28 homes were damaged there. At one point, more than 160,000 homes were without power. Xcel Energy spokesman Ed Legg says this is most damage a storm has caused in the Twin Cities in the last five years.

"This is kind of the worst-case scenario for an electrical system that's above the ground because you not only have the electrical storm that's going to affect it, of course, but the really strong winds just wreak havok. Leaves are still on trees and trees are hitting powerlines and lines are going down and poles are breaking. It's pretty much just like everything else; it takes a hit."

Andover officials estimate that the cost of damage to the town could exceed $1 million and Mayor Steve Larson has declared a state of emergency.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty toured the area on Thursday. Pawlenty scanned much of the area by helicopter and also visited with local officials and home owners on the ground.

"The bulk of the damage is to houses and trees, and a lot of that will be privately insured," Pawlenty said. Consequently, the state's role in recovery should be limited.

Straight line winds from one storm gusted at 67 mph in Monticello and 68 mph in the Crystal area, the National Weather Service reported.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.