Cannon Falls works to recover without power Friday night

There's no official word whether a tornado touched down in Cannon Falls, but the storm left plenty of damage and plenty of people without power tonight.

"It’s kind of bummer,” said Shannon Norstad. “A lot of trees went down. It was kind of devastating."   

Like just about everyone else in Cannon Falls, Shannon and Carolina Norstad are picking up the pieces after Thursday night's storms.

“It sucks without power,” Norstad said. “Hopefully it’s back on soon. Some people they are saying three to four days, some people back on tonight. There is no definite answer.”

The strong winds knocked down trees and power lines across the city, leaving several neighborhoods without electricity.

Nearly 60 residents from the Garden Nursing Home were forced to leave because of a generator fire.

They were taken to a temporary shelter at the high school, where they were transported by ambulance to other nursing homes around the state.

“A freak storm happened, and we're doing our best to make it through it and save the wine,” said Sam Jennings, of the Cannon River Winery.

The Cannon River Winery is one of the only downtown businesses that could open, but with no cooling system, the winery was at risk at losing nearly $1 million of wine in fermentation tanks until an industrial generator was delivered just in time.

“It’s just crazy,” Jennings said. “We're right in the middle of harvest. We have grapes coming in tomorrow so we need to get power back on to our equipment so we can squish grapes tomorrow."

The south end of town bore the brunt of the storm with the John Deere dealership and St. Angar's Cemetery sustaining the most damage, but with no deaths or serious injuries, residents hope they won't be in the dark for long.

“Hopefully they can get it cleaned up fast, with power back to everybody and everybody goes on with their day to day,” said Norstad.

As of Friday night, Xcel Energy said there are about 1,600 customers without power, but it hopes to have electricity restored by Saturday evening.

A note from the city of Cannon Falls:

The City of Cannon Falls has started cleaning up, but that is moving slowly in the areas with down power lines. The danger posed by down power lines is serious, so that area will only be cleaned up once the power company advises it is safe to do so. Because of that danger the City is not requesting any assistance from person wanting to help at this time. We understand your desire to do something to help and at the moment we would ask that you direct your desire to help by making a donation to our local food shelf or any of the community programs that provide assistance to people in our community.

The triage center is being shut down as the last patients are being transferred to other care facilities. City of Cannon Falls is recommending that residents without power or natural gas make arrangements to stay with family or friends that have not been impacted by this storm event. If you have no one to contact please contact the Red Cross emergency assistance at 1-844-878-9933.

The City recognizes that restoring power may be a slow process because the safety of all is number one. The power company crews are working to resolve this as soon as possible. In the meantime the City of Cannon Falls is requesting residents reduce their water use. The City has ten lift stations that are without power and is using either a mobile generator or vacuum truck to keep sewage from backing up in the lines.

Conserving water will reduce the load and stress on the sewer system until power is restored.

The primary concern of the City is the safety of our residents and loss of electricity bring some new safety issues to be aware of:

 Do not use candles as a light source, because an open flame can result in a fire. Please use flashlights or lanterns that are powered by batteries.

 Generators should never be used inside a building, which includes a garage. Keep at least four feet of clearance between the generator and the structure and keep windows within twenty feet closed. Point the generator exhaust way from any occupied structures.

 If using a generator make sure that it is connected so it does not back feed current into the electrical service lines.

 When power is restored, be alert for electrical problems or fire in the service connection area if wires may have been pulled on, but not broken.

 As power is restored, it is possible for transmission lines that have not broken, but now have cracks to spark or cause fires it rubbing on trees or other structures.

One of the ongoing problems the City is still having is the large number of people driving around sightseeing the damage. The extra traffic is making it very hard for the City’s emergency response by congesting the roads and delaying City vehicles moving to different locations to do their cleanup work. The City again asks people to PLEASE, PLEASE stay home and not make unnecessary trips into Cannon Falls until the State of Emergency has been lifted.

Please watch for updates on the Cannon Falls Police Department Facebook page or the City of Cannon Falls Facebook page.

The Cannon Falls Police Department wants to remind our residents to report anything suspicious that they may see or hear as soon as possible so an officer can check on what is occurring. The easiest way to report suspicious activity is calling 911.