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Ameren Illinois Utilities Mobilize Resources to Restore Power for About 64,000 Customers in Southern Illinois

Special Customer Service Office for Those Without Phone Access

MARION, Ill., May 8 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- The Ameren Illinois Utilities are mobilizing about 700 personnel from throughout the state to take on the challenge of restoring power to about 64,000 customers in Southern Illinois in the wake of high winds that caused extensive damage to electrical transmission and distribution lines.

AIU personnel are continuing to assess the damage to both high voltage lines and the electrical distribution system that brings power to homes and businesses. Additional personnel and equipment resources will be sent to the area as necessary.

The Ameren Illinois Utilities have activated their Emergency Operations Center, which is directing the service restoration work.

In addition to electrical outages, the Ameren Illinois Utilities (AIU) are responding to reports of more than 57 possible natural gas leaks in Carbondale and 10 in Marion.

"Our first and foremost concern is the safety of our customers and coworkers," said Ron Pate, Ameren Illinois Utilities (AIU) vice president of Regional Operations.

"As a result of high winds, we have downed electrical lines throughout the area hit by today's storms. It is imperative that people stay away from these downed power lines and to always call us or '911' if you see downed lines. Do not outside in the dark because you won't be able to see a downed power line that may still be energized and dangerous. Stay away from brush, shrubs and fallen trees that may hide downed lines."

The Ameren Illinois Utilities are reporting significant outages in 14 Sothern Illinois Counties: Alexander, Clark, Crawford, Franklin, Gallatin, Jackson, Jasper, Johnson, Perry, Pulaski, Randolph, Saline, Union and Williamson.

"When severe storms cause power outages, our first priority is to correct potentially life-threatening situations, such as downed power lines and to restore service to hospitals that are without power. We then implement power restoration plans focused on restoring power for the greatest number of customers in the shortest length of time," Pate said.

To report downed power lines or other problems, customers should call the Ameren Illinois Utilities: 1-888-672-5252 (AmerenCILCO), 1-888-789-2477 (AmerenCIPS) and 1-800-755-7000 (AmerenIP).

Pate said the Ameren Illinois Utilities will open a special Customer Service Center in the Marion Mall near the Sears store for customers who do not have access to phone service. It will be open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Customers who do not have access to telephone service with questions or in need of assistance with bills or other issues are invited to visit the center.

Customers planning to use a portable 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 because of the threat of deadly carbon monoxide poisoning.

For updated information on the electrical service restoration effort, please visit IllinoisOutage.com.

The Ameren Illinois Utilities (AmerenCIPS, AmerenCILCO, AmerenIP) have been providing safe, reliable energy delivery service for more than a century. The Ameren Illinois Utilities deliver energy to 1.2 million electric and 840,000 natural gas customers in more than 1,200 communities within a 43,700-square-mile service territory.



Ameren offers these tips for your safety and for coping with power outages:

Check on the elderly. If you know an elderly person in your neighborhood that 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

SOURCE: Ameren Illinois Utilities

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