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Ameren Illinois Utilities Restore Service; Urge Customers to be Prepared for Fast Moving Storms

PEORIA, SPRINGFIELD, and DECATUR, Ill., Jan. 30 /PRNewswire/ -- Ameren Illinois Utility crews at 8:00 a.m. today have restored power to about 26,000 of the nearly 30,000 customers who lost power when a fast moving storm packing winds of up to 50 m.p.h. raced across Illinois yesterday afternoon and evening. Most customers' service will be restored by mid-day with isolated outages restored this afternoon.

"Safety is our first and foremost concern when severe storms strike," said Ron Pate, vice president of Regional Operations for the Ameren Illinois Utilities (AmerenCILCO, AmerenCIPS and AmerenIP).

"The most important safety rule is to stay clear of downed power lines and always call your Ameren Illinois utility or '911' if you see downed lines. Assume all downed power lines are energized. Stay inside, especially at night because you may walk into an energized power line. Stay clear of brush, shrubs and downed trees that may hide downed lines," Pate said.

The service restoration effort was somewhat slowed by the extreme cold, high winds and the need to coordinate power restoration with the Ameren Illinois Utilities' natural gas operations.

When an outage occurs during extremely cold weather, homes and commercial buildings will cool rapidly. Since most homes and businesses use natural gas for heating, the restoration of electrical service to a large number of customers at the same time may cause a sudden surge in demand for natural gas. This large sudden demand may cause the natural gas pipeline pressure to drop to a level insufficient to maintain service. To prevent this situation from occurring, electrical service is brought back in stages.

The gradual restoration of electrical service in cold weather helps assure the safe, reliable delivery of both electricity and natural gas to Ameren Illinois Utility customers.

Tuesday's high winds damaged power poles and brought down electrical wires. Outages occurred in all areas of the state with the greatest number in the eastern and southern portions of the Ameren Illinois Utility service territory.

"We appreciate our customers' patience during these disruptive service outages," Pate said. "Our linemen, contractors and other personnel will continue to work until every customer has service restored."

With predictions of another storm event for Thursday evening and Friday, customers need to be prepared for the possibility of more severe weather before winter comes to an end.

For a full description of the Ameren Illinois utilities' restoration process and tips on how customers can prepare for service disruptions, visit the Ameren Web site at http://www.ameren.com/ (select "Outage Information" from the left-hand menu, select Ameren Illinois Outage Information and then select "Ameren's Storm Response" from the left-hand menu). Customers can learn more about power outage situations by visiting selecting "Outage Information" and then such menu options as the "Outage Map" and "My Electric Outage."

The measures customers should take to prepare for a power outage or loss of natural gas service are similar to those needed to prepare for any emergency situation.

  Here are some tips on dealing with winter storms:

  -- Because most major outages are caused by bad weather, start by
     developing shelter plans for severe storm conditions.
  -- If any member of your family has a medical condition, plan and make
     arrangements to have that person's special needs met in the event
     electricity is not available for an extended period of time during a
  -- Assemble a "storm kit" and store it in a secure, centrally located part
     of your house. Make sure all family members know where to find that
     kit. It should contain:
     -- Emergency telephone numbers; flashlights and fresh batteries (avoid
        using candles, lanterns or oil lamps due to the fire risk); extra
        garage and house keys; a battery-powered radio; a battery-powered or
        wind-up alarm clock; a supply of bottled water (one gallon per
        person per day); non-perishable foods that don't require heating;
        blankets, bedding or sleeping bags; a first-aid kit and medications;
        a hand-operated can opener; special items for infants or family
        members with special needs; hand tools, such as a screwdriver,
        scissors and duct tape; household items like  plastic utensils,
        paper plates, waterproof matches and household bleach;
        identification and copies of important family documents.
  -- If your electric service is interrupted, be sure to unplug or protect
     sensitive computer and electronic equipment with a high-quality surge
  -- When severe weather is predicted, make certain your cell phone is fully
     charged. Also, remember that cordless landline telephones will not
     function in the event of a power outage.
  -- If your power goes out, check first with a neighbor to see if you are
     the only one without power. If you are the only one without service,
     check your panel box for a tripped circuit breaker or blown fuse. If
     any breakers are in the "off" position or if a fuse is blown, you
     should investigate the problem. If you are still without power, or if
     others in your neighborhood are experiencing a power outage, call your
     Ameren Illinois utility at any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week
     -- and always call as soon as possible to report a downed line or
     natural gas odor! The Ameren Illinois utility numbers are 888-672-5252
     (AmerenCILCO), 888-789-2477 (AmerenCIPS) and 800-755-7000 (AmerenIP).

The Ameren Illinois utilities serve 1.2 million electric and more than 840,000 natural gas customers in a 43,700-square-mile area of Illinois.

SOURCE: Ameren Illinois Utilities

CONTACT: Leigh Morris, +1-217-535-5228, or Erica Abbett,
+1-618-236-4329, or Neal Johnson, +1-309-677-5284, all of Ameren Illinois

Web site: http://www.ameren.com/