UPDATE: 11,581 still without power in Boone County; all power restored in Columbia

Tuesday, February 26, 2013 | 4:35 p.m. CST; updated 5:54 p.m. CST, Wednesday, February 27, 2013

COLUMBIA — Thousands of Columbia and Boone County residents were left without electricity on Tuesday as power lines weighed down by wet snow caused outages across the county.

Boone Electric Cooperative, which provides service to Boone County and portions of  Randolph, Audrain, Callaway, Howard and Monroe counties, reported a growing number of power losses on its outage map throughout the day. The first outages were reported around 4:30 a.m. As of 3:45 p.m., 11,581 customers had no power.

Phillip Iman, disaster specialist with the American Red Cross Heart of Missouri Chapter, said the agency is preparing to create a shelter for those without power. Scott Olsen, director for the Columbia-Boone County Office of Emergency Management, said a shelter will open by 8 p.m., but the number of people it can accommodate will depend on the number of staff available. The shelter will be at Broadway Christian Church, 2601 W. Broadway.

Connie Kacprowicz, a spokesperson from Columbia Water and Light, said that as of 3:45 p.m., there was one small outage affecting 11 people in an area off West Boulevard near Stadium Boulevard. By 5 p.m., power had been restored to all customers in Columbia, according to a news release from Columbia Water and Light.

About 4,000 people in Columbia had been affected throughout the day, she said. The majority of power outages took place between 5:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m.

Kacprowicz said the department was still sending out crews to check on downed lines and the restoration time was dependent on how long it took crew members to identify the source of the outages. She said it was still possible that more outages could occur as falling snow knocks down branches, pulling down more power lines.

"At this point, it's probably best for people to just stay in for the day," she said.

Other areas across the county were similarly affected. According to the Boone Electric outage map, the Harrisburg region had experienced 922 outages as of 3 p.m., while the Hallsville region had 756 outages.

Chris Rohlfing, Boone Electric member services manager, attributed the power losses to the unusually wet snow, which stuck to trees and weighed down power lines as it melted.

"We usually have more of an ice problem," he said.

Rohlfing said residents should stay away from power lines lying on the ground or hanging low enough to touch. Downed lines should be reported to Boone Electric as soon as possible, he said.

The continuous fall of snow on power lines made crews' progress difficult, he said.

"We are continuously working, but sometimes we have to make repeat trips," Rohlfing said. "People should be prepared to be without power through the night."

In Columbia, residents stocked up on generators to combat the cold. Beverly Torney, a sales associate at the Home Depot on Clark Lane, said the store had sold all seven or eight of its generators Tuesday.

Several traffic lights in the Range Line area were down as of 12:57 p.m., the Public Works Department reported.

A joint news release issued Tuesday morning by the City of Columbia, Boone County and emergency officials advised residents to avoid traveling unless absolutely necessary, as slick streets posed a danger for utility service vehicles.

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.

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