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Swamps, Mud, Downed Trees Challenge Storm Restoration Work as Ameren Illinois Utilities Work Into Night to Turn Lights On

Customer Service Centers Opened in Carbondale, Marion, Herrin, Carterville

MARION, Ill., May 11 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Swamps, mud, downed trees and other difficult off-road conditions continue to challenge the Ameren Illinois Utilities (AIU) workforce of 1,900 field and support staff who are working into the nighttime hours to get the lights back on for customers in Franklin, Jackson, Saline and Williamson counties.

Bulldozers, helicopters and other specialized equipment capable of dealing with swamp conditions have been deployed in this massive service restoration effort, while additional personnel are arriving this evening. Central crew and staging base camps have been established in Carbondale and Marion to further facilitate the service restoration work.

At 5:50 p.m. today, about 33,100 AIU residential and business customers are still without electric service, down from the peak outage count of 68,800 customers. Over the past 76 hours, service has been restored to about 35,700 customers.

The Ameren Illinois Utilities anticipate the majority of all customers will have their lights back on by late Tuesday night. However, the unexpected severity of the damage in Carbondale means that service in and around that city may not be fully restored until Wednesday or Thursday. Gov. Pat Quinn has declared Franklin, Jackson and Williamson counties as disaster areas.

"The loss of electricity has disrupted the lives of people in Southern Illinois, which has been compounded by property damage suffered by many residents. All of this can be very frustrating, but we want to assure you that we have been at this work for 76 hours and will continue until every light is back on," said Ron Pate, AIU vice president of Regional Operations.

"We are reaching out to the leaders of communities throughout the storm ravaged area. We want to make certain they know what is being done to get the power flowing and we want to make certain they are getting the information they need," said Sean Vanslyke, AIU manager of Community and Public Relations.

The Ameren Illinois Utilities also have reached out by establishing temporary Customer Service Centers as follows: Southwest entrance Illinois Centre Mall, Marion; Carbondale City Hall, 200 S. Illinois Ave.; Herrin City Hall, 300 N. Park Ave., and Community Food Pantry, 121 W. Illinois Ave., Carterville.

Safety continues to be a major concern. Since many people are using portable generators, we want to remind them to never operate a portable generator indoors. When operating a portable generator, first open the main breaker or remove the main fuses before connecting the generator to your electrical system. 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.

Up-to-date information on the electrical service restoration effort as well as safety advice and weather reports are available at IllinoisOutage.com. Also, the Web site features photos and videos of the storm damage and service restoration effort.

To facilitate the restoration effort, the Ameren Illinois Utilities are now using an automated calling system to contact customers in impacted areas. The system allows customers to indicate if their service has been restored or is still out. This information is then put into the AIU outage reporting system so service can be safely restored. In addition, customers can call AIU to report outages or downed wires: 1-888-789-2477 (AmerenCIPS), 1-800-755-7000 (AmerenIP) and 1-888-672-5252 (AmerenCILCO).

Residents who must repair customer-owned facilities, such as the meter base, weatherhead or point of attachment, should have this work performed by a professional electrical contractor. These repairs must be completed before service can be safely restored.

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:

  • Raw or cooked meat, poultry and seafood
  • Milk, cream, yogurt and soft cheeses
  • Cooked pasta and pasta salads
  • Custard, chiffon and cheese pies
  • Fresh eggs and egg substitutes
  • Meat-topped pizza and lunch meats
  • Casseroles, soups and stews
  • Mayonnaise and tartar sauce
  • Cookie dough

These foods should be safe for a few days without power:

  • Butter and margarine
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Opened jars of salad dressing, jelly, relish, taco sauce, barbecue sauce, mustard, ketchup and olives
  • Hard and processed cheeses

SOURCE: Ameren Illinois Utilities

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