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Cleaning up after Christmas storm

Alexandria Park Department employees Terri Goeke (left) and Jim Prechel drag branches to a wood chipper on Ash Street in Alexandria Wednesday morning. Many tree branches came down during the ice storm that hit the area Christmas night. (Lowell Anderson | Echo Press)1 / 2
On Tuesday afternoon, crews work to unload a semi that slid on Interstate 94 near mile marker 93 and tipped over. The minor crash took place around noon on Monday, Dec. 26. (Contributed)2 / 2

Christmas Day brought more than just presents under the tree — it brought a storm consisting of snow and ice as well as thunder and lightning, knocking out power and icing over roads.

The freezing rain left behind broken power poles, bent flag poles, and streets and yards littered with branches.

Bill Thoennes, director of parks and facilities for the city of Alexandria, said his crews were out picking up branches that were near the street and in city parks, but that they do not pick up branches and downed trees from yards of residences within the city limits.

"We have a lot of area to cover so we encourage people to take their own branches and trees from their own property out to the landfill," said Thoennes, who added that he hopes the city will be done with its cleanup by the end of Friday.

Shane Schmidt of Alex Rubbish and Recycling shared some advice about debris from downed trees and limbs.

"Don't put it in your garbage," he said. "Bring it out to the landfill or call someone to take care of it for you."

Rare Christmas rain

Although the precipitation was hard to calculate because it was a mixture of snow and rain, Shawn DeVinny, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service out of Chanhassen, said the Alexandria area saw nearly 0.7 inches of rainfall, which occurred mostly on Christmas Day. When it comes to snow totals, DeVinny said unlike rain, there are no automated ways of calculating the amounts. It is all based on human observers who do the best they can, he said. Snowfall totals for this area over the Christmas holiday were estimated to be about 2 inches, he said.

Thunderstorms during the winter are definitely unusual in Minnesota, said DeVinny.

"I think only a couple of times over the last four decades has there been rain and thunderstorms on Christmas Day," he said. "The Twin Cities area saw some rain on Christmas Day in 2009, but it looks like 1959 was the last time measurable rainfall occurred in Alexandria (on Christmas)."

Power outages

The wind, colder temperatures and rain produced a plethora of ice accumulations across the county with ice not only building up on roads, but also on trees and powerlines, wreaking havoc all over.

Ryan Rooney with Runestone Electric Association said there were around 1,400 REA members without power starting about 5 p.m. on Christmas Day, with more customers losing power into early Monday. All power was restored by 9:30 p.m. Monday.

Rooney said the largest area without power was just north of Lake Miltona mostly due to poles that broke under heavy ice. Other areas that were hit hard, said Rooney, were the east side of Lake Mary, the south side of Lake Andrew and near Pocket Lake.

Crashes

Douglas County Sheriff Troy Wolbersen said ice-covered roads and a busy travel day made for numerous crashes on Monday, including one serious injury crash near Garfield on County Road 82.

Along Interstate 94 between Brandon and Garfield a semi truck slid off the road and flipped on its side about noon Monday, according to Jesse Grabow with the Minnesota State Patrol. On Tuesday, crews worked to move the load — bags of feed and grain, according to Grabow — from the flipped over semi to another truck.

Celeste Edenloff

Celeste is a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press and has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in June 2016 to report on the community she calls home. Besides writing articles for the Echo Press, she has a blog, “Newspaper Girl on the Run.” Celeste is on a continuous healthy living journey and loves to teach bootcamp fitness classes and run. She has participated in nearly 200 races with her husband, Al, covering the 5K, 10K, 10-mile and half-marathon (13.1 mile) distances.

(320) 763-1242
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