Storm brings downed trees, power outages

Published 9:25 pm Monday, July 22, 2019

Power expected to be restored to remaining residents Monday


Albert Lea residents continued to clean up Monday after heavy winds and rain Saturday morning brought down trees and branches across the community.

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At the worst after the storm, about 6,000 customers were without power, according to Jack Kortan, manager of operations with  Freeborn-Mower Cooperative Services. Power was restored to most within 24 hours of the storm, and about 50 customers remained without power as of Monday morning, according to Kortan. He expected those to be restored by Monday night.

“We’re doing our best in a safe manner and as fast as we can,” he said.

The first round of storms began at about 8 a.m., as funnel clouds over Geneva Lake and cloud rotation near Clarks Grove led the Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office to sound the tornado sirens throughout the county, said Freeborn County Sheriff Kurt Freitag.

He said sirens are sounded any time funnel clouds are reported by a trained spotter in the county, if there are threats of straight-lined winds of 75 to 80 mph or if the National Weather Service issues a tornado warning.

He said he would like to look into the possibility of only sounding the sirens in a quadrant of the county or half of the county if only a portion of the county appears to be affected, but this would require the manpower of deputies and trained spotters to confirm that the other quadrants or half of the county is clear of threats to make that feasible.

He cautioned people to heed the warning of the tornado sirens, regardless of whether the county is under a tornado or severe weather warning or not. He noted sometimes radar does not pick up on tornadoes, as was the case with the Clarks Grove tornado in 2017 or the small tornado near Glenville this summer.

“I think the average person would want these sirens sounded,” he said.

The second round of storms took place at about 11 a.m., bringing with them at least 60 mph winds, dark skies and rain.

Heavy wind reportedly blew over a semi on Interstate 35, injuring Dean David Freimund, 54, of Barron, Wisconsin. He was taken by ambulance to Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea with an injury deemed not life-threatening, according to the Minnesota State Patrol.

The State Patrol indicated the 2012 Kenworth semi was traveling southbound on I-35 south of Albert Lea when it was blown into the median ditch.

Freitag said power went out at the Freeborn County Government Center, and the backup generator failed to start, leaving the building, including the Freeborn County jail and the dispatch center, without power. He said staff used portable radios and flashlights to get by until power was restored, and telephones were not affected.

He said a maintenance visit had previously been scheduled for the generator this week, so that technician will look into that failure.

A man was also reportedly electrocuted on Bridge Avenue near Hawthorne Street, though it is unclear whether that happened as a result of lightning or a transformer that blew around the same time, authorities stated. The man was reportedly taken by private vehicle to the hospital.

The city announced it will accept tree debris from the storm at the transfer station free of charge through Aug. 3.

The transfer station will be open additional hours this week, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and after that, normal hours will resume. The transfer station’s regular hours are 3 to 7 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays and Fridays, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays.

Stumps, including roots, will be accepted at normal cost.