"Know that crews are out there, they're working hard and they will get power restored as soon as possible," said Glen Cantrell, communications manager for SEMO Electric Cooperative. "And it's going to get worse before it gets better."
As the weather approached on Monday, crews with an electric contractor were on standby for SEMO Electric, said Cantrell. More crews were called in to assist with the damage on Tuesday, as about 3,400 members were without power in the morning, with the number growing through the day.
Around 5 p.m., before the second round of wintry weather hit, the number was over 5,000. "We're not even done yet," said Cantrell.
AmerenUE crews were also working hard to restore power as quickly as possible. In southeast Missouri, there were 700 linemen, 700 tree trimmers, supervision, safety personnel, field checkers and other support staff, totaling more than 1,400 workers engaged Tuesday, said spokeswoman Susan Gallagher. An additional 200 or so lineworkers will arrive today.
"There are 25 poles down throughout the area, plus limbs on lines and lines down due to weight of ice," said Gallagher on Tuesday afternoon. The number increased as the bad weather coontinued until Wednesday morning.
Four storm trailers were dispatched to the area - in Dexter, Hayti, Charleston and Cape Girardeau. The 55-foot trailers are stocked with materials commonly needed to repair equipment damaged, and are dispatched to central locations close to the damage. A mobile command center was also moved to the area, Gallagher added.
In Ameren UE's service area, the following percentages of outages were reported this morning: 100 percent in New Madrid County, 93 percent in Mississippi County, 83 percent in Scott County and 99 percent in Stoddard County.
As of Tuesday evening, Mississippi and New Madrid counties were the hardest-hit in SEMO Electric's coverage area, with about 70 percent of customers out of power, said Cantrell. Outages accounted for about 50 percent of customers in Scott County, 30 percent in Stoddard County and 10 percent in Cape Girardeau County, he added.
Cantrell said ice storms are the worst type of storm for crews to work.
"In a spring storm, it moves through and its gone," he said. "But in the winter, there are two phases -- first it comes through and knocks everything down and then it starts melting."
When ice melts, it drops off the power lines, making them bounce and knocking the lines off the poles. Also, tree limbs beneath lines snap back up after the ice on their limbs melts, which can also knock lines off poles, said Cantrell.
As hard as it may be, the electric companies urged individuals to resist the urge to "help out" by trimming trees on lines or picking up downed lines.
"Don't touch it," said Cantrell. He added that lines sometimes fall across driveways, so those people should just stay inside.
In a news release from AmerenUE, Richard Mark, senior vice president, reminded people to stay away from downed power lines and be cautious while outside.
"During icy weather conditions, going outside in the dark means that a person could come into contact with a downed power line that could still be energized and dangerous but not visible," he said. Brush, shrubs and downed trees could also hide downed lined, he added.
While power outages and surges are likely over the next few days, AmerenUE also advised people to unplug or protect their sensitive computer and electronic equipment with a high-quality surge protector.