Power restored to most in Fairview Heights; warming center closes

News-DemocratJanuary 6, 2014 

Electric power returned Monday to nearly all of 2,000 residents in the west end of Fairview Heights, according to Ameren Illinois.

By 2:45 p.m., only about 250 homes located south of Lincoln Trail Road, and west of Illinois 159 remained without power, said John Barud, senior operations director for Ameren Illinois. They were expected to be restored later in the day.

The warming center serving Fairview Heights and Caseyville Township closed at 7:20 p.m. Monday after power was restored to the majority of residents.

Anyone still seeking shelter from the cold should go to the Fairview Heights Police Department at 10027 Bunkum Road, according to detective James Mason.

The power outages that began Sunday were the result of a couple different problems, including a line breaker going out at a Fairview Heights substation because of the extreme cold and severe winds Sunday night, Barud said.

"Apparently with the cold weather we had components fail in it," Barud said. "It takes time to diagnose what the issue is, and actually to make repairs."

The restoration of power was delayed because of the need to coordinate with the gas system, Barud.

"Once the power comes back on, everybody's furnace kicks in," he said. "So we got to make sure we don't drain the gas system."

Other major factors in slowing the response to restoring power were work crew accessibility problems caused by the heavy snowfall and the need to ensure that crews stay safe in the extreme cold by giving them periodic breaks from the cold, Barud said.

"It's really slow going because of those access issues," he said. "That's hampering our efforts."

People with questions can call the Ameren information line at (800) 755- 5000.

In addition to the Fairview Heights customers without power, another 1,400 East St. Louis residents, 500 Caseyville residents and 200 Belleville residents were without electricity Monday.

Pockets of power outage also affected the Cahokia, East Carondelet, Highland and Staunton areas.

In most cases, those power outages were later restored.

One prominent Fairview Heights resident affected by the power outage was Mayor Gail Mitchell, who said he lost power to his home around 12:30 a.m. Monday.

Mitchell found out about the outage to his house in the city's Union Hill West neighborhood because "I got cold," he said. "We just got another blanket to put on the bed."

As for the water pipes to his house, "So far they've been OK," he said.

Officials opened the warming shelter at the Caseyville Township Building, 10001 Bunkum Road in Fairview Heights. Residents were told to contact the Police Department at 489-2100 if they needed transportation to the warming center.

Robert Jones, who lives at the 100 block of Parr Avenue, said he lost power to his home at 6:30 p.m. Sunday. Jones said Monday morning that he and his family planned to wait out the power outage in a part of Fairview Heights where the electric power remained on.

"Curiously enough, it's an area where all the businesses are," he said.

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