Minneapolis family with newborn goes 24 hours without power; Xcel Energy crews continue restoration efforts Sunday

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Xcel Energy continued power restoration Sunday for thousands in Minnesota and western Wisconsin after the Friday night blizzard.

Roughly 6,700 customers remained without power as of 4:00 p.m., and the public utilities company said the number affected should drop closer to 3,000 by the end of day, meaning 98% of outages would be restored.

Full restoration should happen by Monday afternoon, said Trisha Duncan, director of Minnesota community relations for Xcel Energy.

Power has been restored for the Poeschel family in South Minneapolis, but not before they spent 24 hours in the dark, with a newborn, wondering if the lights and heat would return in hours or days.

“His white noise went off,” new mom, Emma Poeschel said recalling the moment around 12 a.m. Saturday that she realized the power was out in her home.

“I thought, it’s eerily quiet in here.”

She was referencing a sound machine in her 4-month-old’s room.

“Our first thought was the heat and how long will we be able to maintain a temperature that’s comfortable for him, especially having a little bit of a cold from daycare,” Poeschel said.

“And we kind of went back to sleep thinking it’ll probably be like an hour or two, and then things will get back to normal.”

After a sleepless night for the whole household, she woke up around 5 a.m. to find the house still dark and getting cooler.

“We were shocked that nothing had happened yet, and that we didn’t have any updates from Xcel, by even 7 a.m., letting us know kind of what to expect for the day,” Poeschel shared.

By late afternoon, the house was about 15 degrees too cool and her fridge stock of breast milk went bad.

“I think, as any new mom who breastfeeds could commiserate, that is like liquid gold, and to throw it away, it was really, really heartbreaking,” she said.

Poeschel called customer service, “and got just kind of the generic message of like, ‘We are aware of the situation. We know that people are out working on it, and we don’t have an ETA at this point.”

At that point, not knowing how many more hours they would have to wait, the Poeschels phoned a friend, state Sen. Erin Maye Quade, DFL – Apple Valley, who took them in well into the evening.

“It’s what you do for your best friends, especially new parents,” Sen. Maye Quade said in a text to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS reporters.

“From what we were told,” she continued, “Xcel really didn’t communicate with their customers about what to expect — which should have been their top priority after fixing the outage.”

Maye Quade said she only learned from a 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS report that customers could expect power early this week.

It ended up happening earlier for the Poeschels. Power returned around 10:00 Saturday night.

“So it was almost 24 hours without,” Poeschel said.

“My biggest point is just the lack of communication,” Poeschel said echoing the state senator’s concern.

“Xcel Energy is such a huge company and to not be able to alert someone for 20 hours that there’s an ETA for when their power is going to come back on is really, really tough.”

When asked if Xcel had the ability to provide customers with a neighborhood-level restoration ETA within a few hours range, Duncan said, “I think, you know, they’re always things that we can do better on.”

“I will say that with the magnitude of the storm, that has really impacted us to give those accurate ERTs [estimated restoration time]. Generally, on a storm that is much smaller in scale, we are very timely and very accurate in our ERTs.”

Xcel expects full power restoration by Monday afternoon, Duncan said, adding the company worked with the American Red Cross to open a shelter at the King of Kings Lutheran Church in Woodbury late Sunday afternoon.

The shelter is located at King of Kings Church, 1583 Radio Drive in Woodbury. It opened at 3 p.m. Sunday and will remain open overnight for those in need, the press release from Xcel Energy says. However, if there is no one at the site by 10 p.m. who needs the overnight accomation, it will close and reopen at 8 a.m. on Monday.

Xcel Energy also says that snacks and water will be provided. People coming to the site are encouraged to bring their own power cords to charge their electronic devices.

Back in a warm home Sunday, the Poeschel’s newest family member was doing well.