High winds topple trucks, cause power outages in region

News-DemocratFebruary 21, 2014 

Gusty winds that caused power outages and other problems across the region overnight will continue throughout the day Friday.

High winds Thursday caused at least five tractor-trailer trucks traveling through the metro-east to be blown over on their side, according to the Illinois State Police.

The reported accidents happened between 3-6 p.m., state police spokesman Calvin Dye Jr. said. Three of the accidents occurred on area interstates, one each on 55, 70 and 255. The other two occurred at the intersection of Illinois 158 and Illinois 161 and on Illinois 255.

Three of the five truck drivers were taken to area hospitals where they were treated for minor injuries and released. Road lanes were blocked while the trucks were removed.

"Thank God the crashes were minor injury (cases)," Dye said. "This could have been disastrous."

According to the National Weather Service, winds will continue to blow up to 35 mph. But that's a least something of a relief. Gusts reached up to 67 miles an hour in the area Thursday night, downing tree limbs and power lines.

The high temperature Friday will be 55 degrees under sunny skies. The low Friday night will drop to 35.

More than 12,000 Ameren customers and about 5,000 members of Southwestern Electric Cooperative were without power by 7 p.m. Thursday. But crews worked through the night and, by Friday morning, only a handful of metro-east residents remained without electricity.

"Our crews went on alert status at 6:45 a.m. Thursday morning," Richard J. Mark, president and CEO of Ameren Illinois, said. "When Mother Nature decided to hit us with series of intense storms with straight-line winds beginning in Quincy and the metro-east area and moving across our service territory, we were immediately able to dispatch field personnel to assess damage but the continual wind gusts initially made it difficult to repair downed lines."

At the height of the storm, Ameren reported outages in about 1,200 homes in Maryville, 1,370 homes in Fairview Heights and 1,432 homes in Belleville. Several hundred people were left without power in Highland, Marine, St. Jacob, Troy and Collinsville as well.

Southwestern Electric spokesman Joe Richardson the high winds tore down four of the cooperative's transmission line poles. Most of Southwestern Electric's outages were within Madison, Fayette and Bond counties, though other customers in St. Clair County were also without power.

"The storm did a lot of damage to our distribution system," Richardson said. "It brought down transmission and distribution poles, dropped trees into power lines, and left a lot of conductor on the ground."

High winds also caused damage to the roof of the new Liberal Arts Building at Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville. Construction of the $19.1 million building was completed prior to the start of the spring semester in Jan. 2013.

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