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Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014

Electrical crews still battling Mother Nature

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

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Power lines, cable lines and poles were down along Hardin Street Tuesday morning
(Photos by Tim Jaynes, Staff)
SIKESTON -- A significant winter storm brought freezing rain, sleet and thunderstorms to Southeast Missouri, leaving an icy crust which pulled down tree limbs and power lines.

Scott County seemed to be hit hardest.

Wayne McSpadden, operations manager for Sikeston Board of Municipal Utilities, said power outages have been spotty all over town.

"They've been occurring all day long as tree limbs continue to break and fall on power lines," McSpadden said about the outages on Tuesday.

McSpadden estimated several hundred people have been affected by the outages. One of the bigger outages occurred Tuesday on Hardin Street, where a falling tree took out a whole block of power lines, he said.

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"Our men having been working pretty much around the clock since Monday evening. Hopefully, by Wednesday, we'll start coming out of it," McSpadden said.

BMU also called in an outside contractor for assistance, McSpadden said. "I hope folks will bear with us," McSpadden said. "We're trying to get power restored in those (affected) areas as quickly as we can. We're doing everything we can."

In Benton, limbs and trees were reported down along with power outages at a few homes Tuesday, according to Connie Barnett, Benton's city clerk. About 12 Union Electric workers from Wentzville arrived in Benton Tuesday morning to help with repairs in the city, which they completed, Barnett said.

"There are still some limbs falling," Barnett said. "We just had some calls."

Residents in New Hamburg were still without power Tuesday after the ice caused an outage beginning at about 9 p.m. Monday.

According to Joel Evans, Scott County's emergency management director, power was out in Commerce through Tuesday, and there were "pockets here and there throughout the day."

Seven warming stations were open through the county on Tuesday day, which closed at 7:30 p.m. However, shelter through the evening was made available in the training facilities at the Scott County Sheriff's Department. Food was provided by the Salvation Army, while the American Red Cross lent cots for those needing a warm place to sleep.

"This is the worst nightmare for any utility company," said Glen Cantrell, communications manager for Semo Electric Cooperative in Sikeston.

As of noon Tuesday, 5,000 Semo Electric members -- from Jackson to south of Sikeston and Bloomfield to Wilson City -- were without power, Cantrell said.

"Right now we're losing the battle, but we know it will get better," Cantrell said.

Cantrell said when power is restored remains unknown. It could be as early as Tuesday night, this morning, this afternoon or later, he said.

"It's getting worse as the day progresses because of the weight of the ice on the trees. Limbs are falling. Trees are falling. Our major concern is the wind because it starts blowing on the trees or lines. Also ice when ice gets on the trees, it puts weight on them," Cantrell said.

Tuesday's rain was another factor.

"Trees are uprooting because the rain is saturating the ground," Cantrell said. Crews were contracted out to help Semo Electric employees.

"Right now every one (of Semo Electric employees) is out working. Once these extra crews come in, we go to extra 12-hour shifts and keep going that way. We've had people in this office that have been here all night," Cantrell said.

Semo Electric serves more than 15,000 people over a 5,600-square-mile area. Cantrell just asked residents to be patient over these next few days.

"It's not a simple thing (to restore power) where you get a hole digger and dig a hole and put a pole in the ground," Cantrell said.

Rather the process goes a little something like this: Outage information is given to dispatchers. Then workers start with a substation and work their way out, Cantrell said. If there's a tree down over a pole, they remove the tree. If a pole is down, then they have to bring a special truck in and take that pole out and put a new pole in. Then they put a line on it. Plus, there is a limited on number of trucks, which can affect progress.

"I know it's cold, and people want electricity and to be warm. We're working as quickly as we can," Cantrell said.

Cantrell reminded residents not to handle fallen power lines.

"You don't know if a line is charged or not. The outlet in your home can kill you. Stay away from those power lines," Cantrell said.

He also urged residents to call in any power outages.

"Don't assume we know," Cantrell said.

Meanwhile, Cantrell said utility workers will continue to address the outages. Cantrell said: "What would be great is if the clouds would roll away, and the sun would shine and it would be 70 degrees."