Many still without power after twister; cleanup efforts soldier onby Brandt Williams, Minnesota Public Radio
Minneapolis — Two days after a tornado struck north Minneapolis, thousands are still without power. But cleanup efforts are making progress and there have been few reports of crime.
Minneapolis officials say Sunday's tornado, which was responsible for two deaths and dozens of injuries, caused around $166 million in damage.
View photo galleries of damage from the tornado and the ensuing cleanup.
On Monday night, the National Weather Service concluded that the tornado was either a strong EF1 or an EF2. An EF1 tornado has speeds of up to 109 mph. An EF2 has speeds of 110-137 mph.
STATE OF EMERGENCY
The Minneapolis City Council voted Tuesday to extend a state of emergency that went into effect following Sunday's tornado.
Council president Barb Johnson said the declaration makes it possible for the city to spend money on traffic control and other actions that were made necessary by the storm damage. She said it's also a key step in the process of securing state and federal disaster funding.
"Our folks in the emergency management division have been very carefully tracking the spending, the potential losses, the actual losses as people go door to door," Johnson said. "Depending on the result of those investigations, we will apply for federal help, as well as state help."
City officials say damage inspections should be finished by the end of the day. So far they say more than 500 buildings will need significant repairs.
City officials also say all streets in the tornado-damaged area of the city's north side are passable. However, they say there's still a lot of work left to be done.
Steve Kotke, Minneapolis' public works director, said the city and the Park Board worked together to remove trees that were blocking streets. Now, he said, work crews will start clearing tree limbs and brush from the side of the roads.
"The other focus we have right now is getting the alleys cleared out," Kotke said.
Kotke said residents can put tree debris on the curbs for free pick up for the next several weeks.
Park Board officials say more than 2,000 trees in parks and on boulevards were damaged. However, they don't know how many trees on private land were blown over by the storm.
Park Board president John Erwin said the city's canopy was significantly depleted in some areas, because the damaged trees were very large. Erwin said foresters will use cranes to help remove the downed trees.
"We expect to be extracting trees from people's property between [Tuesday] and Saturday night. If a boulevard tree has fallen down into private property, the Park Board will remove that tree for you," Erwin said.
Erwin said homeowners are responsible for trees on their property that fall into the street. However, he said Park Board crews have been moving those trees out of the street for property owners.
Sgt. Stephen McCarty said the section of the exclusion zone closest to Theodore Wirth Park is now open. And he said another large section of north Minneapolis is close to being re-opened to residents.
However, McCarty said the area is still not ready for a lot of visitors.
"We encourage people that don't live in the area not to just drive through and site-see, if you will," McCarty said. "It will impede our efforts to clear the streets, etc. But they certainly won't be stopped if they do."
McCarty also said the the tornado-damaged section of the north side has not seen a jump in burglaries or looting since the storm.
"Things went relatively well, considering the circumstances," he said.
THOUSANDS STILL WITHOUT POWER
About 7,000 Xcel customers, mostly in Minneapolis, are still without power. Officials with Xcel say the storm caused major damage to the power system.
Xcel spokesman Paul Adelmann said about 200 power poles were broken during the storm, and added that some were snapped like toothpicks. Adelmann said Xcel can't reconnect power to homes where the mast — the pipe that connects wires from the power pole to the home — is broken.
"Homeowners need to look at their home, look at the roof or the side, look at that mast. That belongs to the homeowners," Adelmann said. "We cannot connect power unless that's fixed. So they have to call a qualified electrician to fix that mast."
Adelmann said he hopes to have most of the remaining customers reconnected by the end of the day Wednesday.