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Tens Of Thousands Still Without Power In Minn.

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP/WCCO) — Work continues to restore power to thousands still in the dark after Friday’s powerful storms.

Xcel Energy said this has been the worst power outage the state has ever seen. After a peak of 610,000 customers without power after Friday night’s storms, that number is now down to 28,574 as of 9 p.m. Monday.

Xcel said that most of the power outages are now contained to Minneapolis and the western suburbs.

The Minneapolis-based utility has been working for days to restore power following a series of severe thunderstorms that swept through Minnesota and western Wisconsin from Friday to early Saturday.

The utility said it expects to restore power to the vast majority of its customers by Wednesday.

It’s Monday morning at East Side Co-Op where workers restock bare shelves. Stripped clean not by demand but safety — they had to throw it out.

“I think literally yes, a ton of food at least, if not more,” said Brandy Scheidecker, manager of East Side Co-Op. “We should at least in my department be fully functional today. It takes awhile to get orders — the deli’s furthest behind, because we have to prepare the food once they get the ingredients.”

Craig Weatherson has weathered his fair share of storms before. His house on Kingsview Lane in Plymouth once went without power for 22-straight hours.

This time he’s quickly approaching hour 100, but he’s making good use of his time.

“I thought, you know, I have the means. I’d rather run a few lines and be a good guy than just hoard the whole thing to myself,” Weatherson said.

He’s used his generator to help two neighbors: one across the street and another neighbor down the block.

“I’m helping one neighbor with his sump pump and another with his freezer,” he said.

Down the hill from Weatherson is Brad Rowell.

“The pumps been running non-stop. All the water from the neighborhood comes down here,” Rowell said.

Power at Rowell’s house went out early Friday morning, so his wife and daughter have been staying with relatives.

His generator keeps him company, running the sump pump and the refrigerator.

“We’ve got food now, although we can’t cook it, so we haven’t been eating here,” he said.

And it may be Wednesday before that happens.

The hang up in a lot of neighborhoods are the trees. So many trees knocked down so many power lines that trees have to be dealt with first before restoring power lines can even be considered.

While Bridget Yopp waits for power to be restored on Kentucky Avenue in St. Louis Park, she and her neighbors handle what trees they can.

“We’ve just been working all day today, cutting up stuff,” Yopp said. “It’s been tough. But you know what – we gotta help each other out.”

St. Louis Park is one of those cities helping homeowners with curbside brush pickup. They’ll begin that service on Tuesday.

The power’s back thanks to 1,000 line crews working 16-hour days. Crews from 14 states have driven to Minnesota to help.

Jeff Custer, Xcel director of design and construction, calls it a one-two-three punch. Referring to the series of storms that toppled so many trees over such a wide area.

Calling in crews from across the country presents its own challenges.

“Once we have all the resources here, it’s where do they sleep at night, where to have them report, how to get work to them,” he said. “We’ve got a massive office effort in addition to the field resources.”

The utility said it responds with top priority to situations that threaten public safety, such as downed wires. The next priority includes hospitals and nursing homes. Then crews focus on restoring service in densely populated areas.

Xcel Energy Power Outage Map

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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