Hardest hit areas in the St. Louis Metropolitan area are St. Charles, Wentzville and West and North County. Ice on trees and lines are major problems, in addition to the loss of more than 70 distribution feeder circuits\- each supplying power to between 500 and 1,500 customers. As the rain falls ice continues to build on trees and further problems develop as a result of the freezing temperatures.
The storm began around 11 p.m. yesterday evening with rain, becoming freezing rain and ice in the overnight hours.
Given the nature of the damage, Ameren companies cannot offer customers anticipated restoration times but will make those available as soon as possible. A restoration update will be provided later today. Lengthy outages are expected.
"We kept all available crews on standby yesterday and called in contract crews from Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and southwestern Missouri and are requesting assistance from utility companies throughout the region. Contractor Crews from Tennessee are expected later today. We do appreciate our customers' patience during this critical time," said Richard Mark, senior vice president, AmerenUE Missouri Energy Delivery. "We are working closely with city and state officials and emergency response personnel to coordinate restoration efforts and ensure customer safety. Work will be continuing around the clock. We are also concerned about the potential for deteriorating road and driving conditions, however this has not been a problem at this point."
For customers who are without power in the cold and unable to get to a warm location, Ameren recommends staying in one room, wearing layers of clothing and wrapping up in blankets. Customers using an alternate heat source must be sure to follow all instructions, use fire safeguards and ensure proper ventilation. Also, prevent pipes in outside walls from freezing by allowing water faucets to slightly drip.
Ameren, through its subsidiaries, serves 2.4 million electric customers and one million natural gas customers in a 64,000-square-mile area of Missouri and Illinois.
NOTE TO EDITORS and NEWS DIRECTORS: Ameren offers these tips for your safety and for coping with winter power outages (also available on www.ameren.com):
• Watch out for downed wires. If you see a fallen or sagging wire, assume that it is still energized and dangerous. Electric power lines can carry power even after being knocked to the ground. Stay away and warn others to do the same.
• Check on the elderly. If you know an elderly person in your neighborhood who is without power, check on that person's health.
• Pull some plugs. Turn off or disconnect the refrigerator, freezer, television and other major appliances that would go on automatically when the power is restored. This precaution will avoid overloading a circuit when power comes back on - and the chance of a second interruption. After power is restored, turn them on one at a time.
• Flip a switch. Turn one or two light switches on so you will know when your service is restored.
• Resist the urge to peek in on the refrigerator and freezer. Food will stay fresh longer if the appliance stays closed.
• Use caution with your food. Check with your local health department and remember the rule, "When in doubt, throw it out!" The University of Illinois Extension Service says these foods should be discarded after four hours without power: Raw or cooked meat, poultry and seafood; Milk, cream, yogurt and soft cheeses; Cooked pasta and pasta salads; Custard, chiffon and cheese pies; Fresh eggs and egg substitutes; Meat-topped pizza and lunch meats; Casseroles, soups and stews; Mayonnaise and tartar sauce; Cookie dough
• These foods should be safe for a few days without power: Butter and margarine; Fresh fruits and vegetables. Opened jars of salad dressing, jelly, relish, taco sauce, barbecue sauce, mustard, ketchup and olives Hard and processed cheeses.