A powerful thunderstorm raced into the Twin Cities from the west Sunday morning, bringing heavy rain, thunder and strong winds, ripping down trees and causing property damage.
Hail in many Twin Cities communities was so thick that it resembled several inches of snow.
The metro area office of the National Weather Service (NWS) said in a tweet about 8:35 a.m.: “It’s NASTY here at the office in Chanhassen right now. TAKE COVER in the Twin Cities NOW!!!!”
Within minutes, downtown Minneapolis experienced dark green storm clouds, heavy rain and the peppering of hail. The Twin Cities temperature plunged as the storm rolled in, from 75 degrees at 8 a.m. to barely 60 two hours later, the NWS said.
Crews have restored power to roughly 150,000 Xcel Energy customers since the storm hit, with the west metro accounting for a large chunk of that total.
By 11 a.m. Monday, the number of customers without electricity was down to about 14,500, the utility reported.
The first storm-related injuries surfaced in St. Paul, where the Fire Department said a storm-damaged tree that was being cut fell on two adults in the 1800 block of W. Minnehaha Avenue. Both were taken to Regions Hospital and were expected to survive the injuries.
In Coon Rapids, public works crews fired up the heavy equipment and plowed several inches of hail from the streets.
“Unusual sight for June!” the city posted on its Twitter account.
Farther east, in Scandia, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office reported there was “so much hail, it’s like it snowed.”
One of the most dramatic incidents of damage occurred to the Monticello High School baseball dugout. A weather spotter said the cinder block structure was destroyed by the force of the storm. In that same city, a large tree toppled and landed on a home.
Skies turned calm by midday, with high humidity and just a chance of isolated storms Sunday evening.
Chisago County sheriff’s deputies between Rush City and North Branch, just north of the metro, herded to shelter many bicyclists participating in a 150-mile multiple sclerosis charity bike ride. The cyclists were back on the road by 10 a.m. or so, once the wicked weather passed.
The NWS had reports of hail and an inch of rain on the western edge of the Twin Cities in Delano, while workers at Valleyfair amusement park in Shakopee reported tables and chairs being tossed about. A storm spotter alerted the Weather Service to hail measuring 1.75 inches in diameter leaving pockmarks on residential siding in Blaine. Also in Blaine, the renowned TPC golf course blasted out an e-mail saying that the storm halted operations “until further notice.”
Hail and at least 1.75 inches of rain were recorded in Lino Lakes. Winds measured at 69 mph whipped through Richfield, while 60 mph winds hit Brooklyn Center, Waconia and Mound, according to the NWS.
Hail accumulated in snowlike piles at the site of an art fair in Excelsior and all across the Twin Cities, where residents were furiously snapping photos of the white pellets blanketing cars, patios and sidewalks.
Just west of the Twin Cities, a tornado warning was in effect in Meeker County, where a large tree was blocking a highway near Kingston. Winds in Litchfield reached 80 mph shortly after 8 a.m., the NWS reported.
By late Sunday morning, it was western Wisconsin’s turn for thunderstorm and tornado warnings. In the Barron County town of Almena, a greenhouse reported damage, according to the NWS.
Strong winds took down trees and power lines in Kerkoven, west of Willmar, the NWS reported. Wind speeds topping 50 mph were reported west of Olivia, and trees were toppled in the Kandiyohi County community of Pennock, the Weather Service added.
Look for a continued possibility of thunderstorms Monday into Wednesday, the NWS said. In that time frame, Tuesday afternoon and evening look the most unstable, and a ramp-up in the heat is also in the forecast.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482