Battle fatigue setting in for utility crews, weather forecasters

(AP) — Battle fatigue set in for utility crews, weather forecasters and tree trimmers as they continued to struggle with cleanup after last weekend’s storms.
Crews for Northern States Power Co., the state’s largest electrical utility, were putting in 16-hour shifts. They expected to have power restored to all Twin Cities customers by Tuesday night.
Storms Friday and Saturday night plunged 235,000 NSP customers into darkness. In Winona, where the entire city lost power Saturday, about 700 of NSP’s 17,000 customers were still without power Tuesday.
NSP had nearly 500 workers doing repairs. Many crews have been working steady overtime since the end of April and are now on mandatory 16-hour days, although they can stop at 14 hours if they’re too tired, Moeller said.
“These guys keep answering the bell,” Moeller said. “It’s like Rocky 17.’ They put on the boots and go to work. It’s just incredible.”
The storms are blurring together for the man in charge of keeping track of these things: Tom Krause, manager of the National Weather Service’s severe-weather program in Chanhassen.
“It’s gotten to the point where I can’t remember one storm from another,” Krause said. “We’re just getting clobbered by a storm every few days.”
Krause said an early northward shift in the jet stream — not El Ni¤o — is to blame for the repeated storms since late March.
Usually, the jet stream moves gradually up from Texas to Canada starting in early spring. This year, he said, it jumped up north earlier than usual.
The weather service predicts clear weather for the next few days, but more thunderstorms could arrive this weekend. Krause could not predict whether they would pack the punch of the past weekend’s storms.
At Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, 2.55 inches of rain fell Friday and 0.18 inches Saturday. However, 6.5 inches were reported in Zumbrota, and unofficial amounts of 5 to 7 inches were reported in Scott, Rice, Goodhue and Dakota counties, said Gary McDevitt, the weather service’s hydrologist.
Flash flooding occurred along the Cannon and Zumbro rivers, with the gauges on the Cannon in Welch on Saturday morning reading 14.98 feet, beating the previous record of 14.01 feet set April 8, 1965, McDevitt said.
Streams in Jordan and Shakopee were over flood stage Monday. Jordan, Shakopee and Savage streams should crest Wednesday or Thursday, washing out roads and some campgrounds but not doing any extensive damage, he said.
If forecasters and line crews are weary, trees are just giving up. The powerful winds knocked thousands of them out of the soggy ground.
Last week’s two storms uprooted more than 2,000 trees in St. Paul alone, after two big storms in May destroyed an estimated 3,000, said Kit Borgman, the city’s communications director.
Minneapolis has lost about 3,500 publicly owned trees since the first major blast May 15, said Jim Hermann, a forester for the city parks board. Crews have been working 10-hour days to open blocked streets and clear brush and limbs. The cleanup cost in Minneapolis is $2 million and rising, Hermann said.