Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

January 6, 2014

Power returned through area but roads still not clear

Jackson Adams
Effingham Daily News

EFFINGHAM — After more than 1,000 Cumberland County residents were left without power Sunday evening, electricity has been returned to most of the area although work crews were still out throughout southern Illinois early Monday evening.

"Toledo was pretty close to being a complete outage," said Kelly Hendrickson, communication executive with Ameren Illinois. 

Hendrickson said the reason for many of the outages in Ameren's coverage area was due to high winds causing power lines to briefly touch, which overloaded the circuit breaker, causing problems at substations. Hendrickson said an individual problem with the lines caused power outages to hit large areas of Cumberland County.

"They all kind of go hand in hand," she said. "It's basically like a circuit in your house. There's a fault in the wire and that causes a circuit breaker to pop and those are all in the substations. The main issue were those power lines touching each other."

Besides forcing wires to touch, high winds also caused downage, resulting in power outages for other local residents. Kevin Bernson, a spokesman for Shelby Electric Cooperative, said crews are working to get a large number of outages back before working on the isolated areas affected by the downed lines.

"There might be a couple lines down that might feed five or six homes," he said. "There’s going to be a few areas where it might be just one individual outage. We work on the issues that are going to get the most outages out the quickest."

Still, Bernson said crews are trying to get as many outages fixed as soon as possible but heavy snows have impeded the process. Late Sunday, he said one crew spent  the night in their truck trying to deal with the immediate outages and crews are still trying to catch up with all of the problems. However, many of the workers know the dangers of dealing with extremely low temperatures and the cutting wind chill.

"They pretty much know their limits and there are guidelines to that kind of thing," he said. "Obviously, we wouldn’t have the crews continue to work if there were some of those situations. If it gets dark, we might call them in and have them get rested up and then send them out. We’re doing the best we can and we’re trying to get everyone’s power back up but we want to do it in a safe manner as well."

Being on the road is still causing danger. With so many other drivers on the road, accidents on the ice are making it difficult for work crews to deal with the heavy drifts.

"We're just trying to keep the roads open and get the closed ones opened up," said a spokesperson for IDOT. "We keep trying to get our plow trucks through but they keep getting stopped by wrecks."

Work was delayed for around six hours to pull over 300 wrecked vehicles from the intersection of Interstate 50 and 70 and with tow trucks being stretched further and further to deal with accidents around the area, delays in clearing the Interstate are expected to continue.

"With the temperature and everything being so low and the winds so high, it's just going to continue to drift," the spokesperson said. "It won't be clear today and then the roads will be icy for a few days until it all starts to warm up."