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Columbia, Boone County linemen help with storm recovery

Wednesday, January 28, 2009 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 11:11 p.m. CST, Wednesday, January 28, 2009

COLUMBIA — Linemen from Columbia Water and Light traveled Wednesday to the city of Campbell in southeast Missouri to help repair lines damaged Tuesday morning during a winter storm that left the city's customers without power and under three inches of ice.

"Whole infrastructure is down. Completely dark, no fuel, no nothing," said Tony Cunningham, a line superintendent with Columbia Water and Light.

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Crews from Hannibal, Marshall and Columbia are being sent to Campbell as part of the Missouri Public Utility Alliance's mutual aid program, which helps member utilities restore power during widespread outages.

Campbell, which is in the service area of the Ozark Border Electric Cooperative, was completely blacked out by the winter storm. 

"They need just about everything. No lights, no water, no sewers. Everything is out there," said Mike Conyers, director of lineworker safety and training of Missouri Public Utility Alliance.

The crew of 13 linemen left at about 10:30 a.m. and reached Campbell in the late afternoon. Qualified linemen usually volunteer for these duties and are paid by the city of Columbia, which is later reimbursed.

Because Columbia is larger than Campbell, it can usually afford to send crews down to the smaller cities to help. Columbia received aid from the program several years ago during an ice storm.

Connie Kacprowicz, a spokeswoman with Columbia Water and Light, said that to her understanding, the town does not produce a lot of its own power. Instead, power is delivered via transmission lines.

After the lines went down, the city tried to use a generator to restore power but that effort failed. Campbell has been without power since about 4 a.m. Tuesday, she said.

The Columbia linemen will be working on the distribution circuits and are expected to be in Campbell for five to seven days, Kacprowicz said. Restoring the power in Campbell is estimated to take about a week.

The town had 1,883 counted in the 2000 U.S. Census and is known as the "peach capital of Missouri."

Boone Electric Cooperative linemen also are being sent to affected areas.

Six linemen are being split between Pemiscot-Dunklin Electric Cooperative in Hayti and SEMO Electric Cooperative in Sikeston.

A four-man construction crew will help Hayti, where about 8,000 households are without power and more than 1,000 utility poles are down.

A two-man crew is being sent to Sikeston where about 10,000 households are affected. About 63,500 members in five different areas ranging from Branson to the Mississippi area in the southern part of the state are affected, Boone Electric spokesman Jim Robertson said.


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