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Ameren Illinois Utilities Push to Restore Lights in Central Illinois by Tonight; Strong Winds May Slow Restoration Effort, Cause New Outages

PEORIA, Ill., Dec. 20 /PRNewswire/ -- More than 1,400 Ameren Illinois Utilities field personnel are at work to restore electrical service by late evening to about 15,000 customers without lights in the wake of yesterday's ice storm, but high winds forecasted for tonight and tomorrow threaten to slow the service restoration effort and even cause new outages.

"Our primary concern is that power lines and trees still heavily coated with ice and today's colder temperatures mean little if any of that ice will melt. High winds blowing on ice-coated power lines and trees can damage the power lines and cause tree limbs to break and fall into power lines. Our customers need to be prepared for the possibility of new outages," said Bill Prebil, Ameren Illinois vice president of Regional Operations.

According to the National Weather Service (NWS): "A strong arctic cold front will pass through the region" (Central Illinois) that will produce "winds of 20 to 30 mph with higher gusts." The NWS added: "The combination of the strong winds and lingering ice has the potential to produce additional tree damage and power outages tonight and Sunday. Persons in the region should make necessary preparations now to be ready for any power outages."

Under the direction of the Ameren Illinois Emergency Operations Center in Decatur, Ameren Illinois Utilities field crews and support staff are working 16-hour shifts to restore service. Furthermore, crews will remain at the ready in the event of additional outages.

The Ameren Illinois Utilities also have sent Storm Trailers to Peoria, East Peoria area and Chenoa. The Storm Trailers are mobile storerooms, stocked with the material field crews need to get the lights back on. The trailers can be moved to central staging sites to provide essential materials areas with the greatest damage.

The storm began to cause significant outages during yesterday's early morning hours. Service outages peaked at about 45,000 before noon. Field personnel from throughout the Ameren Illinois Utilities service territory and crews from electrical contractors have been making rapid progress despite adverse weather conditions.

Customer Safety Advice

"Safety is our priority every day of the year, but it takes on added significance when severe weather strikes," Prebil said. "The first safety rule is to stay away from downed power lines and always call us or '911' if you see downed lines," Prebil said. "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."

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.

    -- Because most major outages are caused by severe weather, begin 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 land line telephones will not
       function in the event of a power outage.
    -- If your power goes out, contact 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).
    -- Anyone using a portable generator should follow strict safety
       requirements to prevent injury or death both to themselves and to the
       utility field crews attempting to restore power. Customers planning to
       install a temporary generator must first open the main breaker or
       remove the main fuses before connecting the generator to the electrical
       systems. Failure to do this could seriously injure utility crews
       working on outside power lines, and/or it could cause damage to a
       neighbor's property or the customer's own equipment. Customers should
       never use a portable generator indoors, including in a home, garage,
       basement, shed or partially-enclosed area -- even with ventilation.
       Opening doors and windows or using fans will not prevent the carbon
       monoxide exhaust from building up in the home. Only use a portable
       generator outdoors in a dry area, away from doors, windows and vents.
       Customers should also exercise extreme caution when handling fuel for
       portable generators, especially when re-fueling hot generators.

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.

Editor's Note:

For current information on the restoration effort, please visit www.illinoisoutage.com

SOURCE: Ameren Illinois Utilities

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