Most power outages should be fixed today

Thursday, February 14, 2008
Downed tree branches and power lines blocked a street Wednesday in Jackson. (Bob Miller)

Thousands of people still without power may see relief today as temperatures are expected to surge to nearly 50 degrees.

"With the good weather [today] we should be able to make a lot of progress," said Mike Cleary, a spokesman for AmerenUE. Officials, however, warned that high winds and trees shifting from melting ice could complicate matters, knocking power out to people who may have just had it restored. Those in rural areas might have to wait until Friday for service as crews focus on more populated areas first.

As of 6:10 p.m. Wednesday, 3,496 Cape Girardeau, 438 Jackson, 235 Delta and 68 Dexter AmerenUE customers were still in the dark after Monday's ice storm. Only 15 percent, or about 975, of Jackson public utilities customers didn't have power by 6 p.m. Wednesday. In Illinois, 183 Anna, 211 East Cape Girardeau and 322 Alto Pass AmerenCIPS customers were without service.

Outages decreased significantly in Cape Girardeau from about 6,400 Wednesday morning and 9,625 Tuesday night, thanks to help from more than 1,000 extra workers from around Missouri.

"These guys have to go out in some of the worst conditions and clear debris. They have to get to the repair sites and replace poles, replace cross arms, cut trees and put up wire. It don't matter whether the lines are next to the roads or nowhere near them," said Mike Lewis, a construction supervisor for AmerenUE, who traveled from Eureka, Mo., to help.

While crews made steady progress in cities, those in rural areas struggled Wednesday. From Piedmont, Mo., to Marble Hill, Mo., nearly 7,000 people didn't have power, down slightly from 7,500 reported by the Black River Electric Cooperative Wednesday morning.

"Road conditions are nearly impassable in many areas due to ice and fallen trees," the cooperative's Web site said.

Barb Casper, the manager of member services for Citizens Electric Cooperative, said about 1,000 people, mainly around Millersville, Fruitland and the Trail of Tears State Park area, didn't have power Wednesday morning. But by the late afternoon, the number had climbed back to 1,500 because trees and lines continued to fall. She hoped the service would be restored by the end of the night Wednesday for those along feeder lines.

Nearly 730 workers arrived in the past 24 hours, bringing the number of outside helpers to more than 1,180 for AmerenUE. Support staff struggled to find available hotels and arrange dining. Many are eating in a cafeteria at Southeast Missouri State University.

Some additional workers for the Jackson public utility are staying at far as Ste. Genevieve, Dexter or Sikeston.

Crews have been working 16 hour shifts or longer, on the field until at least midnight.

"Our guys always come and they work under the worst conditions, when you can barely travel the roads. This morning when we started it was 11 degrees," Lewis said.

lbavolek@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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