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US 54 closure necessary to repair power lines

Last of customers regaining electricity

Randall Martin reaches up to reactivate power to an electrical line in Brazito. Martin is a linemen from Gascosage Electric in Dixon, and was part of a crew in Cole County to help Three Rivers Electric crews restore power.

Randall Martin reaches up to reactivate power to an electrical line in Brazito. Martin is a linemen from Gascosage Electric in Dixon, and was part of a crew in Cole County to help Three Rivers Electric crews restore power. Photo by Julie Smith.

Utility crews will keep working today to bring remaining Mid-Missouri electric customers out of the dark after this week’s snow storm, but reports indicate substantial progress was made on Wednesday.

Three Rivers Electric Cooperative will have several crews working at U.S. 54 in Cole County between West Brazito Road and United Road today after a long span of overhead line that crossed 54 fell Tuesday from the weight of the snow.

The highway will be closed periodically between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. to allow crews to repair power lines in the area.

Both eastbound and westbound lanes of 54 will be closed.

Three Rivers spokesman Mark Boyer said: “A big problem we saw was the weight of the snow causing lines to sag, and when the snow fell off the lines, the wires wrapped together, which caused an electrical arc that created a short in the power line.”

Most of the outages among their 18,000 customers occurred in the Cole, Miller and Moniteau counties. However, all but a few appeared to have been restored, according to the co-op's outage map on Wednesday night.

“We also have to take care of lines that are just sagging because we can’t have a line below a certain point,” Boyer said Wednesday. “So we have to kill it and bring it up to the proper height.”

Boyer said they have five extra crews from three other cooperatives helping their crews in restoring power.

“We didn’t have many problems with trees in power lines because we have one of the most aggressive right-of-way clearing programs,” he said.

Boyer also said this storm was different from ice storms that they’ve had to deal with.

“This happened so fast,” he said. “With the ice storm, we knew as soon as enough ice accumulated things were going to happen,” he said. “This time, we were caught off guard because when it got warm enough and the lines popped back up we went from only being down 800 customers up to 4,500.”

Ameren Missouri had more than 13,000 Mid-Missouri customers out of power at the height of the storm, but Wednesday night's outage map showed very few customers remained without electricity.

Company officials said snow on the lines and falling branches were the chief culprits for their outages.Even underground lines were affected when heavy snow on overhead lines that fed the underground lines snapped.

Ameren officials said that they continue to look to do more underground lines, when it’s cost efficient, in areas like new residential construction. But to put all lines underground would be cost prohibitive.

They said in some places poles and wires are less expensive because when a pole breaks they can be put back, but fixing underground outages can be harder to reach.

Online:

Three Rivers' outage map

Ameren's outage map

Association of Missouri Electric Cooperative's statewide outage reports

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