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Ameren Illinois Utilities Assign 780 Field Personnel To Restore Electric Service in Storm Damaged Southern Illinois; All Service Expected to be Restored by Midnight Tuesday

PEORIA, Ill., Sept. 15 /PRNewswire/ -- The Ameren Illinois Utilities estimate all customers who lost electric service in the wake of yesterday's storms will have their service restored no later than midnight Tuesday, 24 hours earlier than originally estimated.

At 2:30 p.m. today, the Ameren Illinois Utilities had restored service to more than 42,000 customers following yesterday's storms, leaving about 7,000 customers without service. At the height of the outages early yesterday afternoon, more than 49,000 customers were without service. 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.

To meet the challenge of the storms that were spawned by the remnants of Hurricane Ike, the Ameren Illinois Utilities with local employees, reassigned employees and outside contractors had 780 field personnel to restore service in Southern Illinois, including linemen, tree trimmers and support personnel. In addition, the Ameren Illinois Utilities sent two of their storm trailers to Anna to serve the Southern Illinois areas hardest hit by the storm. A storm trailer is a mobile storeroom with the supplies line crews need to restore service.

"With storm tracking projections, we were able to anticipate Hurricane Ike and expected a wide range of storm activity," said Ron Pate, Ameren Illinois Utilities vice president of Regional Operations. "Our supply group began stocking up on poles, wire, transformers and other necessary materials in case we experienced severe weather. Unfortunately, the effects of Ike were significant and impacted nearly half of the 85 counties we serve. However, we activated our Emergency Operations Center (EOC) early on to assemble personnel from various locations and our massive effort to restore power is paying off for our customers."

It is now estimated that Ameren Illinois Utilities customers in East St. Louis will have service restored by 4:00 p.m. today. Customers in the Belleville, Centralia, Mt. Vernon, Sparta, Harrisburg, Benton and Eldorado are expected to have service restored by midnight tonight. Carbondale area customers can expect service to be restored by mid-day Tuesday, while the hardest hit areas of Anna and Marion may have outages until midnight Tuesday.

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.

"This comprehensive team service restoration effort not only is allowing us to work safely and efficiently, but to restore service a full day earlier than we had projected earlier today," said Pate. "I know this will be good news to our customers, many of whom still have cleanup work at their own homes."

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.


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/).

SOURCE: Ameren Illinois Utilities

CONTACT: Leigh Morris, +1-217-535-5228, or Neal Johnson,
+1-309-677-5284, both of Ameren Illinois Utilities

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