"I wish I had some good news," said Ed Throop, general manager of Sikeston Board of Municipal Utilities. "We're just devastated. It's a disaster area."
After freezing rain and snow accumulated Tuesday night and Wednesday morning on top of a layer of ice, power was lost in the entire town. Electric lines fell due to the weight of the ice, poles snapped and fell and tree limbs also fell on the lines, which leaves a big mess for the Sikeston BMU to work through to restore electricity.
Although some power was restored Wednesday, it could be up to two weeks before all BMU customers have power again, said Throop. By Thursday some 1,000 to 1,500 residences of the approximately 7,500 served by BMU had power or close to 30 percent of the entities had power restored.
The main culprit for the problems was the damage of the main transmission loop around the city on Tuesday night, said Throop.
"We've got to repair that before we can even start putting in any circuits," he explained.
On Wednesday, the main targets for power restoration were grocery stores and gas stations. But since the weather is still bad and the electric system frail, the return to electricity could be short-lived, he cautioned.
"We've got to get the limbs off the circuits," said Throop. "That's a big job."
Ten tree trimmers and five more electrical crews from Illinois are working with BMU linemen to restore power.
Crews for BMU have been working long hours, Throop noted. "I can't work these guys 24 hours," he said, adding workers have stayed on the job until midnight.
Efforts are to restore power substation to substation. Once these lines are energized, then work will begin to look at the circuits. Throop said the time frame for restoring power is not good, noting the next 30 percent of the power restoration will be the toughest.
The thousands of trees down in town will only slow the restoration process, according to Throop.
Throop was hesitant to say when all residents can expect to have power again. "There are going to be some customers that have it restored in three to five days," he said. "But for some, it may be 10 days to two weeks."
Because of that, Throop encouraged anyone without power or electricity on the fritz to go somewhere where it is available if possible. "If you've got someplace to go, such as a relative or friend with power, I would really suggest going," he said. "Everyone needs to share their homes and share their food."
As of Wednesday morning, there were 450 services pulled away from homes -- that is, trees pulled the lines off the poles, Throop explained.
He said that, with the widespread outages and problems, BMU will have a staff member at the office to answer phones 24 hours a day.
Throop, who has worked with BMU for 31 years, said he's never seen an outage as widespread as this, or a storm that ripped through the area as hard. "It's never been this bad," he said.
But not matter how bad, or how long it takes to get back to normal, BMU still has a job to do and service to perform. "We'll get through this," said Throop. "It's just going to take awhile."