PEORIA, Ill., Sept. 14 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- The Ameren Illinois Utilities have activated their Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to coordinate service restoration work in the wake of today's storms caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ike that left more than 49,000 customers without electrical service.
Since many outside electrical contractors have previously sent their crews to the Gulf Coast to help restore power in those areas impacted by Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, the Ameren Illinois Utilities have mobilized their own crews from throughout their service territory. In some cases, these crews must travel more than 300 miles to reach the hardest hit areas in Southern Illinois.
Also, the Ameren Illinois Utilities have sent one of their storm trailers to Marion to serve the Southern Illinois area that was hardest hit by the storm. The storm trailer is a mobile storeroom with the supplies line crews need to restore service. A storm trailer carries sufficient supplies to meet the needs of up to 250 linemen.
"Our top priority in this storm restoration effort is the safety of our customers, our coworkers and our contractors," said John Barud, manager of Ameren Illinois Division VI, which encompasses most of Southern Illinois.
"People can help by making sure they report any downed power lines and by warning others to stay away from these lines. Residents should stay away from brush and downed trees which may hide downed wires."
Anyone who sees a downed wire should immediately report it by calling their Ameren Illinois Utility (AmerenCILCO - 1-888-672-5252; AmerenCIPS - 1-888-789-2477; AmerenIP - 1-800-755-5000).
It is anticipated service in Marion and the surrounding areas will not be fully restored until Wednesday. However, at this time it is anticipated service in other areas will be restored by midnight on Monday. Estimated restoration times may be revised after Ameren Illinois Utilities field personnel complete their assessment of today's storm damage.
The storms, which produced heavy rains and damaging winds, brought down distribution and transmission poles and sent tree limbs and even whole trees crashing through power lines. In many of the impacted areas, the National Weather Service had issued high wind warnings.
Among the hardest hit areas were Alexander, Bond, Clinton, Coles, Franklin, Gallatin, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Madison, Marion, Massac, Perry, Pulaski, Randolph, St. Clair, Saline, Union, Wabash and Williamson counties.
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.
NOTE TO EDITORS and NEWS DIRECTORS:
Ameren offers these tips for your safety and for coping with power outages (also available on http://www.ameren.com)/
Check on the elderly. If you know an elderly person in your neighborhood who is without power, check on that person's health.
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.
Pull some plugs. Turn off or disconnect the refrigerator, freezer, television, air conditioner 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.
There are also some steps you can take during and after a storm to ensure the safety of your family, home and pets.
Keep your food cold. Resist the urge to peek in on the refrigerator and freezer. Food will stay cold or frozen 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: o Raw or cooked meat, poultry and seafood o Milk, cream, yogurt and soft cheeses o Cooked pasta and pasta salads o Custard, chiffon and cheese pies o Fresh eggs and egg substitutes o Meat-topped pizza and lunch meats o Casseroles, soups and stews o Mayonnaise and tartar sauce o Cookie dough These foods should be safe for a few days without power: o Butter and margarine o Fresh fruits and vegetables o Opened jars of salad dressing, jelly, relish, taco sauce, barbecue sauce, mustard, ketchup and olives o Hard and processed cheeses The Ameren Illinois Utilities offer these key electric safety tips: * Never enter a flooded basement or other flooded area where water may be in contact with electrical wiring, appliances and other devices. * Under no circumstances should you attempt to turn off power at the main electrical panel box if you must stand in water or even on a wet floor to do so. * Furthermore, never operate electrical appliances or devices or touch electrical switches, outlets or cords if you are standing in water or are on a wet surface, or if you are wet. * Keep all electric-powered tools and equipment at least 10 feet away from water and wet surfaces. Do not use electric tools and equipment outdoors if the ground is wet. Natural gas safety tips: * If you detect a strong odor of natural gas, immediately leave your home or business and call your Ameren Illinois Utilities (AmerenCILCO - 1-888-672-5252; AmerenCIPS - 1-888-789-2477; AmerenIP - 1-800-755-5000). Do not turn lights on or off, operate any electrical device, use a phone or light a match inside or near the building. * If you detect a faint odor of natural gas, attempt to follow the odor to its source. It may be an extinguished pilot light or a partially turned on burner valve. These are problems you can safely and easily fix. If the odor persists, call your Ameren Illinois Utilities Company.
In the event of flooding, the Ameren Illinois Utilities will turn off electrical power to a home or business at the request of a customer. Customers should contact their Ameren Illinois Utilities to have the power turned off when flood waters are likely to reach the main electrical panel box. The Ameren Illinois Utilities also will turn power off at the request of local authorities.
If flood waters reach the controls of a natural gas furnace, water heater or other appliance (generally, the controls are located at the bottom the appliance), contact your Ameren Illinois Utilities to have your natural gas service turned off. The Ameren Illinois Utilities also will turn off natural gas service at the request of local authorities.
The Ameren Illinois Utilities recommend following these tips after a flood:
* If an electrical appliance has been in contact with water, have a professional electrician or appliance repair person check it first. Often, appliances must be repaired or replaced. * If you have any doubts about the safety of your home or business electrical system, have it inspected by a professional electrician. * Call in a professional service person to inspect a furnace, water heater and any other natural gas appliance that was entirely or partially submerged. * If your electrical or natural gas service was turned off, contact your Ameren Illinois Utilities to have it turned on after you have made certain your electrical and natural gas systems are safe to use. Never attempt to turn services on yourself.
Additional safety information is available on the Ameren Web site (http://www.ameren.com/).Photo: NewsCom: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20080914/AQSU003
SOURCE: Ameren Illinois Utilities
CONTACT: Leigh Morris of Ameren Illinois Utilities, +1-217-424-6400
Web site: http://www.ameren.com/