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Published May 31 2011

UPDATED at 3:48 p.m.: 9,500 Xcel customers still without power, down from about 39,000 Monday night

FARGO – About 9,500 Xcel Energy customers in Fargo remained without electricty at 3 p.m. today, after a peak of 39,000 customers lost power during a Monday night storm that damaged trees, power lines and property with wind speeds of more than 70 mph.

Xcel spokeswoman Bonnie Lund said the majority of metro customers -- the utility serves areas of Fargo, West Fargo and Dilworth -- should have power restored by tonight, but some may be in the dark until Wednesday.

An additional 27 line crews, six tree-trimming crews and a dozen support personnel are coming to the area to help, Lund said.

Xcel crews had repaired all main feeder lines and are working on repairing secondary lines to neighborhoods, said Mark Nisbet, Xcel’s principal manager for North Dakota.

“Just because of the amount of trees and wires pulled down, it’s not easy,” he said, adding, “It’s going to be a big effort today.”

If the storm damaged the customer's overhead mast -- a pipe-like housing that connects service wires to a home's meter -- the customer must contact an electrician for repairs before Xcel can reconnect service, Lund stated in a news release.

Xcel urges anyone who sees a downed power line to stay away and call 1-800-895-1999 to report it. The line may still be live and dangerous even if power is out to the area.

Electricity had been restored to all but about half a dozen Moorhead Public Service customers by 8 a.m., General Manager Bill Schwandt said.

Cass County Electric Cooperative spokeswoman Carrie Carney said 379 members were without power as of about 8:15 a.m. in an area mostly ranging from Argusville to Colfax.

At one point, more than 7,600 members were without power, Carney said. Crews worked throughout the night to restore power.

Carney said two substations, one serving the Kindred area and another serving the Sheldon area, are being back-fed, and the co-op asks that members in those areas conserve electricity until the substations are restored. About 20 to 25 poles are down throughout the service territory, she said, adding crews will work throughout the day to fix the problems.

National Weather Service meteorologist Jennifer Ritterling said the strongest wind gust reported at Fargo’s Hector International Airport was 72 mph, but based on roof damage in Fargo, wind speeds could have reached 90 to 100 mph.

Most damage was caused by straight-line winds, but it’s possible there were smaller embedded tornadoes in the storm, Ritterling said, adding officials won’t know for sure until they assess the damage.

“We did hear a lot of funnel cloud reports,” she said.

Check back for updates.