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1,400 Ameren Illinois Utilities Personnel Working to Get Electricity Flowing for 30,000 Customers; Lights now on for 15,000 as Restoration Efforts Continue into the Night

PEORIA, Ill., Dec. 19 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- The Ameren Illinois Utilities have assigned 1,400 workers and outside contractor personnel from across Illinois continue to massive effort to restore electrical service to nearly 30,000 customers in Central Illinois.

A winter storm that coated power lines, trees and roads with as much as three quarters of an inch of ice caused outages for as many as 45,000 customers from the Mississippi River to the Indiana border, including such cities as Macomb, Peoria, Bloomington, Lincoln and Watseka.

The heavy ice accumulations caused electrical wires to fall, damaged utility system equipment and sent large tree limbs crashing into power lines. Stronger winds during the daylight hours hampered service restoration efforts today, causing additional outages in many areas. Strong winds can damage ice coated power lines and can cause icy tree limbs to break and fall into power lines.

Ameren Illinois Utilities field crews, aided by a small army of support personnel, are working 16 straight hours before resting in order to restore service safely and in the shortest possible time. Falling temperatures during the afternoon hours and heavy ice accumulations have made working conditions extremely difficult and hazardous.

In order to maximize the service restoration effort, the Ameren Illinois Utilities have partnered with Western Illinois University and at least 15 hotels to provide 350 sleeping rooms for Friday night. These rooms are needed to house crews when they take needed rest periods. In addition, the utilities are working with five food vendors to supply box lunches for service restoration workers.

If weather conditions do not deteriorate any further and cause additional damage, Ameren Illinois Utilities officials believe service will be restored to nearly all customers by tomorrow evening. Further reductions in the number of service outages are expected to continue during the nighttime hours.

Thick ice and falling tree limbs have caused outage numbers to fluctuate. The Ameren Illinois Utilities began experiencing significant outages at about 11:00 p.m. Thursday. Outage numbers continued to climb until dawn.

If residents see downed wires, they should immediately call 1-888-672-5252 for AmerenCILCO, 1-888-789-2477 for AmerenCIPS and 1-800-755-7000 for AmerenIP.

"The first safety rule is to stay away from downed power lines and always call us or '911' if you see downed lines," said Bill Prebil, Ameren Illinois Utilities vice president of Regional Operations. "Never go outside in the dark because you won't be able to see a downed power line that could still be energized and dangerous. Stay away from brush, shrubs and downed trees that may hide downed lines."

In addition, some customers may need the services of an electrical contractor to reattach or repair customer-owned facilities, such as the meter base, weatherhead or point of attachment. See http://www.ameren.com for a diagram showing this arrangement.

The Ameren Illinois utilities serve 1.2 million electric and more than 800,000 natural gas customers in a 43,700-square-mile area of Illinois.

Editor's Note: for current information on the restoration effort, please visit http://www.illinoisoutage.com

SOURCE: The Ameren Illinois Utilities

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