St. Louis area residents waiting for power

A Missouri National Guard Humvee patrols a neighborhood in St. Louis to assist residents without power on Saturday.
A Missouri National Guard Humvee patrols a neighborhood in St. Louis to assist residents without power on Saturday. Bill Boyce / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

The temperature barely rose into the 20s Sunday as hundreds of thousands waited for the restoration of electrical service that was knocked out by a devastating ice and snow storm.

Tawana Jean Cooper and her family spent Sunday at a Red Cross warming center in St. Louis, which they were able to reach on Saturday from her suburban home after roads were cleared of ice, downed power lines and broken tree limbs left by Thursday’s storm.

Joining her at the shelter were three young grandchildren.

“They know this is not home. They know this is a disaster,” Cooper said as she cradled her sleeping 5-month-old granddaughter in her arms.

“The American Red Cross has been a God’s blessing,” she said. About six dozen others also spent the night at the shelter.

Missouri National Guardsmen had been sent into the area to knock on doors and make sure people were safe. By early afternoon Sunday, the St. Louis temperature had reached only about 22 degrees, the National Weather Service said.

Ice brings power lines crashing down
The storm was blamed for at least 15 deaths as it spread ice and deep snow from Texas to Michigan and then blew through the Northeast late Friday and early Saturday. Thousands of travelers were stranded by canceled flights, highways clogged by abandoned vehicles and stalled trains.

By midday Sunday, 382,000 customers of St. Louis-based Ameren Corp. had no electricity in a roughly 300-mile swath from Jackson, Mo., northeast to Pontiac, Ill., paralleling the track of the storm.

The utility said Sunday it would not estimate when power will be totally restored.

Trees throughout the region were glazed with a thick coat of ice that reflected the sunlight and also snapped tree limbs, bringing power lines down with them.

“It’s slow,” said Ameren repairman Bernie Kutz, after completing a job in south St. Louis. “The tools are freezing somewhat, and nothing wants to work right.”

At the peak of the outages on Friday, 510,000 customers were without power, said Ameren spokeswoman Susan Gallagher. Hundreds of thousands also lost power in the other states hit by the storm.

For much of the region, it was a reminder of the widespread outages caused by severe thunderstorms in July, when 948,000 in Missouri and Illinois were blacked out.

In Belleville, Ill., 20 miles east of St. Louis, Westhaven Elementary School had been in use as a Red Cross shelter since noon Friday. Most of the 100 cots in the gymnasium were spoken for, as were the site’s six hospital-style beds for people with special needs, the shelter’s day manager said.

Aside from “one or two little disagreements with what we do, all things considered people have been very, very nice and cooperative,” Gerald Ellis said.