Metro-East News

Latest on winter storm: Ameren crews respond to 100 broken or leaning poles, 300 downed wires

Howling winds and slushy snow visit the metro-east

Crews work to clear the sidewalks outside the St. Clair County building after Wednesday's snow fall.
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Crews work to clear the sidewalks outside the St. Clair County building after Wednesday's snow fall.

A major winter storm smacked into the metro-east Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, bringing the chance for 5-7 inches of snow and closing schools across the region.

Update: 1:45 p.m.

Ameren Illinois reports 4,096 residents are currently without power in St. Clair County and 2,773 in Madison County.

Update 12:45 p.m.

According to National Weather Service meteorologist Tom Spriggs, most of the metro-east received 2-4 inches of snow.

"There were some snow bands that caused a little more snow to fall in some spots than others," Spriggs said. "But it's been warm enough that a lot of the snow is melting when it lands on the ground, so we likely got more than what we're measuring.”

Caseyville and Godfrey reported two inches of snow as did Belleville and Scott Air Force Base. East St. Louis got three inches while Maestown in Monroe County got five inches.

Spriggs said the majority of the storm has moved beyond the metro-east.

“There is still a little bit of snow in the area and there will be for the next couple of hours,” Spriggs said at just after noon. “But we should see minimal additional accumulation.”

The main weather problem for the rest of the day is winds that will blow upwards of 40 mph, continuing to take down power lines and make driving hazardous.

“There are still a lot of gusty winds in the 40-45 mph range,” Spriggs said. “That will continue to be an issue through the afternoon. There is a wind advisory that will remain in effect until 6 p.m.”

Update 12:15 p.m.

More than 500 Ameren Illinois employees and contractors are repairing and assessing damages throughout the central and southern Illinois territory in the wake of a massive snow and wind storm. Additional restoration crews are coming from Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan and Kansas, according to a news release.

Ameren Illinois is currently experiencing widespread damage to its infrastructure including reports of almost 100 broken or leaning poles, and 300 downed wires.

“Most of the damage is caused by heavy snow building up on our lines,” said Ron Pate, senior vice president of Operations and Technical Services, Ameren Illinois. “This buildup creates a sail effect, and strong winds force the lines to bounce together. This can result in damaged lines, broken cross arms or snapped poles. Unfortunately, continuing strong winds are causing ongoing damage to our system.”

“Restoration estimates will be provided to customers who report their outage once the snow and wind subside and the full extent of the damage is known,” Pate said. “We can assure our customers that our crews are working as quickly and safely as possible.”

More than 6,700 Ameren customers in Madison County are currently without power, according to the online outage map, and 4,488 Ameren customers have no power in St. Clair County.

Update noon:

The village of Glen Carbon has two warming shelters available to residents. One is the Glen Carbon Senior Center, located at 157 N. Main, which will be open until 10 p.m. Wednesday

In addition, the Glen Carbon Centennial Library, located at 198 S. Main, is open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday.

For more information, contact the Glen Carbon Police Department at 618-288-7226.

Update 11:45 a.m.

Light snow continues to fall in some areas of the metro-east. However, the heavy snow has tapered off for the most part, according to the National Weather Service.

Update 11 a.m.

St. Clair County Emergency Management Agency is reporting the entire village of Millstadt is without power.

Update 10:30 a.m.

Thousands remain without power in Madison and St. Clair counties. However, the number of residents who don’t have power is slowly decreasing as crews work to restore downed power lines.

According to Ameren Illinois, 7,156 residents of Madison County are without power, which is down from just an hour ago. St. Clair County has about 6,072 residents without power.

Update 9:30 a.m.

Illinois state police reported six crashes -- but no injuries during the Wednesday morning rush.

“Beyond that, we have had about 12 cars that have run off the road,” Illinois State Police spokesman Calvin Dye Jr. said. “They’re not really damaged, but a lot of cars have run off the road and have had to be towed out.”

Dye urged motorists to stay home if possible because snow expected throughout the daylight hours will continue to make keeping the roads clean a difficult task.

“If you must go out, make sure to leave plenty of distance between yourself and the car in front of you,” Dye said. “Most of our accidents in this type of weather happen when a car stops and the guy behind him runs into the back of them.”

Dye said drivers shouldn’t go faster than 45 mph.

“The other big factor is the wind,” Dye said. “It’s really hazardous out there when it’s blowing this hard and the roads are slick.”

Meanwhile, area colleges and universities have joined primary and secondary schools in canceling classes. Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville announced that they were calling off daytime classes Wednesday. Lindenwood Belleville president Brett Barger said the school would open at noon and McKendree University is open for classes.

Update 9:15 a.m.

More than 17,000 residents of Madison and St. Clair counties are without power.

Ameren Illinois is reporting 8,435 residents are without power in Madison County, which is 8 percent of all residents in the county, and 6,089 residents are without power in St. Clair County, which is 6 percent of all residents in the county served by Ameren Illinois.

Outages continue to escalate as high winds rake Southwestern Electric’s service area. “At 7:15 a.m., about 1,500 members were without power,” said Joe Richardson, the cooperative’s communications director. “As of 8:30 this morning, we have about 2,500 members out.”

Richardson said line crews were dispatched shortly after the first outages were identified by the cooperative’s outage management system.

“Freezing precipitation and gusting winds are pulling down power lines,” Richardson said. “But early reports from our line crews haven’t cited downed trees or broken poles. We’re diligent about right-of-way maintenance, and that work is paying off,” he said. “Considering the magnitude of the winds we’re seeing, our system is holding up well.”

As high winds continue to sweep across Illinois, Southwestern Electric Cooperative is cautioning members to avoid sagging or fallen power lines.

“High winds like we’re seeing today can bring down trees, snap utility poles, and drop power lines,” said Richardson. “We want to remind our members to treat every power line as if it’s energized.”

Members who see downed power lines should stay clear of the area and contact Southwestern Electric Cooperative at 800-637-8667. In addition, people clearing debris after the winds have subsided should first survey the area for sagging or fallen wires.

Update 8:45 a.m.

Ameren Illinois activated its Emergency Operations Center at 6 a.m. Wednesday, according to a news release.

Ron Pate, senior vice president of Operations and Technical Services, Ameren Illinois, said the company has been monitoring the weather system for several days and placed employees and electric utility contractors on alert status at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

“We are assessing the damage and deploying the personnel and supplies necessary to begin the job of service restoration,” Pate said. “Our first priority will be to correct potentially life-threatening situations. We will work closely with hospitals, police and fire departments, and local emergency officials to update lists of critical facilities that are without power. We then implement power restoration plans focused on restoring power for the greatest number of customers in the shortest length of time.”

Ameren Illinois encourages customers use the following tips on preparing for severe weather:

▪  Stay away from downed power lines because these lines may still be energized. During an outage, individuals are asked to stay indoors after sunset because downed lines may not be visible. Stay away from brush, shrubs and fallen trees that may be hiding these lines.

▪  If your electric service is interrupted, unplug or protect sensitive computer and electronic equipment with a high-quality surge protector.

▪  Make certain your cell phone is fully charged. Also, remember that cordless land line telephones will not function in the event of a power outage.

Update 8:30 a.m.

More than 12,000 metro-east residents are without power Wednesday morning. According to the online outage map for Ameren Illinois, 7,287 residents of Madison County are experiencing power outages and 4,580 residents in St. Clair County are without power.

Electricity was restored to parts of Millstadt, which had been without power since about 5 a.m., by about 7:15 a.m. But Ameren Illinois reports large outages across the metro-east including the Belleville, Caseyville, Collinsville, Edwardsville, Fairview Heights, Glen Carbon, Granite City, Smithton and Waterloo areas.

Most of the outages are due to power line damage caused by high winds, according to the utility.

***

Police and road crews report that travel conditions are extremely hazardous because of slick conditions coupled with high winds. Not only is the wind making it difficult to control vehicles on area highways, but the wind is making the battle to clear roads tougher. Snow is blowing across the pavement as quickly as it can be plowed away.

Authorities are urging motorists not to travel if it is not a necessity.

Downed power lines are also causing road closures including Illinois 3 in Pontoon Beach near Chain of Rocks Road. IDOT District 8 is advising motorist to use alternate routes.

Southwestern Electric Cooperative reported high winds had interrupted power to more than 1,500 of its customers, most of them north of Interstate 70.

Southwestern Electric said Madison County had 560 customers without power and Bond County had 200 customers without power. The rest were located in counties to the north and east.

Millstadt firefighters reported at 7:35 a.m. that they were responding to a tree fallen across Illinois 158.

Missouri police reported that power lines are down on Interstate 270 in South St. Louis County near the Dougherty Ferry interchange, making travel a headache for commuters.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for the region, saying heavy snow would result from the storm and warning of hazardous driving conditions. The warning was in effect until 6 p.m. Wednesday.

The storm comes just three days after a weekend of weather in the 60s and 70s, and temperatures are expected to approach those levels by the coming weekend.

For Wednesday, though, the mercury is expected to top out only in the mid-30s, with wind gusts approaching 45 mph, making it seem much colder.

Those needing to venture outside should dress warmly and give themselves extra time for their commute.

Return to BND.com for more on this developing story.

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