Power in rural southeast Missouri won't be fully restored until next week

Thursday, January 29, 2009 | 11:59 a.m. CST

COLUMBIA — More than 34,000 AmerenUE customers are still without heat and power from outages cause by Tuesday's storm system.

The utility company reported more than 800 downed poles and hundreds of power lines in Missouri's southeastern region.

According to a news release, Ameren has added 800 temporary employees to its "restoration staff" for the area. Company spokesman Mike Cleary said these employees come from other areas, both within Ameren and outside it.

"An ice storm is the worst you can face. It coats power lines and tree limbs and hangs there for days," he said. "Limbs keep falling. Lines keep failing. You end up restoring power to an area multiple times."

Cleary estimated power to be fully restored in the middle of next week, but said it might take longer. The company has received more than 1,400 individual reports, each with a different problem.

People affected by the outages were urged to make other living arrangements. But with such widespread impact, largely in rural areas, Cleary said trailers with bunks have been brought in to accommodate everyone.

Because of the "rural nature" of the outages, Ameren has resorted to using helicopters and propane torches to spot and restore the miles of line exposed to the elements.

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