Strong winds continue battering Midwest today

Wind storms
A flag pulls away from its pole at the Viking Sword Museum in Ulen, Minn., as high winds and rain hit the area Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2010.
AP Photo/The Forum, Dave Wallis

Winds topping 60 mph swept through Minnesota overnight, leaving trees down and power out for tens of thousands of people.

The National Weather Service said the winds were a result of a sink of low pressure over northern Minnesota.

It marked the lowest barometric pressure in state history, and MPR meteorologist Paul Huttner said it appears to be the lowest ever recorded in a non-tropical storm in the continental U.S.

The National Weather Service posted these top wind gusts for Minnesota on Tuesday: Georgeville (near Paynesville) and Mehurin (near Canby), 65 mph; Hanley Falls (near Marshall), 63 mph; Lake Benton, Morris, Sauk Center, 62 mph; Alexandria, Langhei, 61 mph; Glenwood, Minneapolis, 60 mph; St. Cloud, 50 mph.

Grow the Future of Public Media

MPR News is supported by Members. Gifts from individuals power everything you find here. Make a gift of any amount today to become a Member!

Wind storms
Tracey Franco of St. Paul crosses University Avenue under the shelter of her umbrella in St. Paul, Minn., on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2010.
AP Photo/Pioneer Press, Ben Garvin

The Minnesota State Patrol said wind blew two semi tractor-trailers off the road near Marshall Tuesday night. A third truck overturned on southbound I-35 near Albert Lea just after dawn Wednesday morning, closing the interstate for nearly two hours while authorites righted the tractor-trailer.

Heavy, wet snow fell across parts of northern Minnesota overnight, causing hazardous driving conditions.

Patrice Nelson with the Minnesota State Patrol in Brainerd said some people were driving too fast for the conditions. Up to 4 inches of snow and slush fell in the area.

"A few of them went into the ditches," Nelson said. "Our major problem was mostly trees blowing over onto the highways."

Xcel Energy reported that as many as 45,000 customers -- mostly in the Twin Cities -- were in the dark Tuesday night.

"It seems like the winds continued through the night and I know that we've been seeing additional outages. We've had crews out working all night. We've been getting power back on, but it's going out somewhere else," Xcel spokeswoman Mary Sandok said.

As of 9 a.m. Wednesday, there were still 35,000, including 28,000 in the Twin Cities.

Minnesota Power in Duluth said 11,000 of its customers were without power, and about 5,400 as of 9 a.m. That includes about 600 in the Duluth area. Others are in Morrison County, Little Falls, Hinckley, Sandstone and Willow River.

There are three schools closed by power outages: Maplewood Middle School, Forest Elementary in Robbinsdale and John Clark Elementary in Cold Spring.

The winds also stranded travelers at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Spokesman Pat Hogan said airport staff put out 500 sleeping mats in the main terminal areas overnight.

"We had more than 100 flights canceled yesterday, and it looks like we're going to have some more cancellations and certainly some delays this morning with the wind still blowing hard out of the southwest," Hogan said.

The airport has been down to one runway since Tuesday afternoon, and Hogan said officials expect to be operating on one runway through the afternoon and probably into the evening. Delays and cancellations will continue, he said.

Many travelers were stranded because of similar weather problems in Chicago.

Airlines and airport officials are urging travelers to check on the status of their flights before they start traveling.

Winds were still reported to be gusting as high as 50 mph in the Twin Cities Wednesday morning.