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Central Missouri socked with a heavy-handed snow

Central Missouri socked with a heavy-handed snow

Wet snow downs power lines, makes shoveling more laborious

February 27th, 2013 in News

Snow accumulation on utility lines caused them to sag and some to snap Tuesday. There were power outages in the county and traffic on U.S. 54 was delayed after a power line fell across the highway.

Tuesday's snowstorm left behind a wet, heavy snowfall that downed multiple power lines and left hundreds of Mid-Missourians with the unenviable task of shoveling out their sidewalks and driveways.

Ameren Missouri utility crews were working throughout the day Tuesday to restore power in Central Missouri following a second snowstorm in less than a week.

At midday, an estimated 12,500 Ameren customers were without power in Jefferson City, Lake of the Ozarks, Boonville, Moberly, Brookfield, Excelsior Springs and other Mid-Missouri communities. (Access the latest figures via Ameren's outage map online.)

The outages resulted after an overnight storm dumped an additional 6 to 9 inches of snow in Mid-Missouri, following Thursday's 6-inch snowfall.

"Crews were out before dawn (Tuesday)," said Kent Martin, Ameren Missouri communications director. He said crews from the Boone Trails District based in Wentzville and St. Charles came to Central Missouri to support efforts to restore power.

Ameren Missouri opened its Emergency Operations Center before noon Tuesday to deploy support personnel and equipment to restore outages.

"If we can get to the site of the outage, we can fix it," Martin said. About 250 lineman and tree trimmers were deployed to restore power.

"The lines are built to withstand up to a half-inch of ice, which is very heavy," Martin said. "This is a heavy snow, and problems are being caused by broken limbs and branches falling on power lines. Some of those branches probably were weakened by the previous storm last week."

Jason Kolb, a Three Rivers Electric Cooperative customer who lives in Meta, lived without electricity for about eight hours while the snow fell at its heaviest rate. Kolb said he lost power from about 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.

"We have two small children ... one who is 2 years old and another who is 8 months old," he said. "It wasn't bad for us, but our 2-year-old woke up cold. So we just cuddled in bed."

Kolb said he didn't sleep much through the night, because he had to monitor the outside wood stove that normally warms his home. Typically, water is circulated through the system. But without power, the system is at risk of overheating. "I was up most of the night," he lamented. (Access latest outage figures via Three Rivers' outage map online.)

Many other people reported power outages of shorter time spans.

Ellen Samuels, who lives in Ashland, coped with an outage between 11:45 a.m. and 2 p.m. Tuesday. She said it's surprising how many tasks can't get accomplished when the power fails, so she was pleased to see it restored.

"It's not often that I get a day off from work ... so I'm enjoying being at home. I'm going to go make some cookies!" she said.

This week's snow was wet and heavy, but not challenging to shovel because temperatures were above freezing for part of Tuesday.

Kerry Cordray, of Jefferson City, spent his morning shoveling snow from his driveway, in spite of a pestering back injury. Four inches of heavy slush fell in his neighborhood near South Elementary School. "It was very wet and heavy," he said. "It was not a fun dig-out at all."

Typically, Cordray heads to Columbia for his job, but Tuesday the office was closed because of the inclement weather. Instead, his family piled in the car and headed to Coffee Zone on High Street for breakfast, once the driveway was cleared. He was hoping to dig a path to his grill and make dinner outdoors. "That's the plan," he said.

Near Hartsburg, Wendy Gustofson - who travels regularly back and forth from Duluth, Minn., but who also keeps a home here - said the heavy snow that started falling Monday night had closed her off from the outside world.

"I've got trees down all over the place. But I love this!" Gustofson said. "I'm from up north; I'm used to it."

One of those evergreens had fallen and was blocking her long, country driveway. She was hopeful a neighbor nearby would help her operate a skid steer to remove the tree, and the snow, from the driveway.

But Gustofson said the snow hardly made any impact to her work life. In fact, she prefers working from home, because it reduces time lost commuting and makes handling sick leave a breeze. "My office is physically on the University of Missouri campus. But as long as I have a laptop, I can work whereever I am," she said. "I'm more productive when I get to work from home. It's advantageous."

Meanwhile, Co-Mo Electric Cooperative, based in Tipton, reported its crews are getting some assistance from other cooperatives' personnel in restoring power to more than 13,000 members who were without electricity on Tuesday.

More than 50,000 customers of various electric cooperatives statewide had lost power on Tuesday, according to a report at the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperative's website, where progress restoring service was being tracked.

Among those, approximately 6,300 customers of Fulton-based Callaway Electric Cooperative were left without power for a prolonged period of time following the wet, heavy snowfall. (See the latest figures via Callaway Electric's outage map online.)

"That's about our peak," Cooperative Manager of Administration Clint Smith said on Tuesday. "We have eight different crews from other cooperatives plus our own helping us, so that's about 40 linemen total."

Smith said that the outages were caused by what was known as "bucking," where snow falls off power lines and causes them to sway into one another, where they become tangled and short circuit.

Kent Martin of Ameren urged people to stay clear of downed power lines, and to report the utility's downed lines to Ameren Missouri at 800-552-7583 or by calling 911.

He also said Ameren customers who want to check on outages can go online to and click on the View Outage Center to see a map of current outages.

Although every effort is made to restore power as quickly as possible, a company news release said, customers with special needs - including those with medical conditions, seniors, handicapped and others who are dependent on electric service - may wish to consider making alternative arrangements if outages in their areas persist.

Fulton Sun reporter Dean Asher contributed information for this article.


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