SEMO Electric reduces estimate for restoring power to two weeks

Friday, February 6, 2009

Southeast Missouri saw more signs of life returning to normal Thursday as the number of people without power continued to decrease and major institutions reported plans to return to regular operations.

The State Emergency Management Agency reported Thursday afternoon that 14,861 customers of rural electric cooperatives remain without power, with a total of just under 20,000 customers without power statewide. Power for about 70 percent of Sikeston, Mo., had been restored, but city officials gave no estimate for completing the job.

SEMO Electric Cooperative spokesman Glenn Cantrell said Thursday it would be about two weeks, not the three to five weeks estimated Wednesday, before full power is restored. The cooperative has 99 crews, with another 10 on the way, working up to 18 hours a day to finish the job, he said.

During a visit to Poplar Bluff on Wednesday, Gov. Jay Nixon received a briefing from area electric officials about the magnitude of the damage and the cost of repairs. Some of the worst damage was to major transmission lines from the Associated Electric Cooperative Inc.'s New Madrid Power Plant.

"It will cost $80 million for the restoration of our facilities," said John Farris, general manager of M&A Electric Cooperative, which maintains and operates transmission lines from the plant for four cooperatives in Southeast Missouri.

"We lost 78 miles of extra-high-voltage lines, 58 miles of lines serving utilities and 2,400 poles," Farris said.

Nixon commended the work of all the utility crews and said the state will continue to provide needed generators from the State Emergency Management Agency to key facilities and assistance from 365 Missouri National Guard members, additional Missouri State Highway Patrol officers and the Missouri Department of Transportation.

Relief agencies such as the Red Cross reported to the State Emergency Management Agency that 225 people were being housed in eight shelters that remain open in the hardest-hit areas.

Other actions announced Thursday include:

* Southeast Missouri State University announced that regional campuses in Sikeston and Malden will reopen Monday and the programs it offers at Three Rivers Community College in Poplar Bluff will also resume Monday. The regional campus in Kennett, however, will remain closed until Feb. 16, and the semester for that campus has been extended for a week.

* Three Rivers Community College will reopen Monday as well, the college announced. The college will compress coursework in order to maintain the school schedule originally posted for the semester, including breaks and holidays.

* The Missouri Department of Revenue announced that it will waive late fees for people who were unable to reach their local license office because of the ice storm. The waiver applies to people who were unable to reach one of a list of offices to complete transactions from Jan. 26 to Wednesday or who can't reach an office by today. Offices include Caruthersville, Chaffee, Charleston, Dexter, Kennett, Malden, New Madrid, Poplar Bluff and Sikeston. The waiver includes the $5 penalty for failing to renew license plates on time and the $25 fee for failing to obtain a motor title within 30 days of purchase.

rkeller@semissourian.com

388-3642

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