Many area residents will see another day or more without electricity as thousands still remained without electricity Thursday morning following a winter storm Tuesday that dumped close to a foot of snow in the northern part of the lake area and beyond.
The heavy, wet snow broke poles and crossarms and tore down power lines.
As of Feb. 28, 8,100 Co-Mo Electric Cooperative members were without power, according to a press release from the cooperative. That is down from 10,750 members without electricity Wednesday morning. The peak of outages occurred Tuesday with 13,800 members without power.
While the goal for Wednesday was to reduce the outages by half, crews have battled winds, snow, cold and muddy terrain as they pushed to get into areas heavily affected by the storms. The challenging terrain and additional snowfall Wednesday have hampered efforts to restore power.
But Co-Mo officials are optimistic that more headway will be made Thursday with more crews arriving from around Missouri to help in the restoration effort. By late afternoon Thursday, linemen from 15 electric cooperatives will be working on the Co-Mo system to try to restore electricity as quickly as possible.
"I'm extremely hopeful we are going to make significant progress today," said Ken Johnson, the cooperative's CEO and General Manager. "It is highly unlikely we are going to get everyone's service back on today, so members should continue to prepare for an extended outage."
According to Co-Mo's Facebook page, the goal for Thursday is to get half of the 8,100 members back on line by the end of the day.
Spots around Versailles and Gravois Mills were among the areas still without power Feb. 28.
Morgan County Emergency Management has opened two shelters in Versailles for residents without power who need a warm place to stay. Call the emergency management office at 573-378-2453 to see about registering to stay at one of the shelters.
One of the locations literally bogging crews down Wednesday was at the Lamine River on Hwy. 41 north of Interstate 70.
Linemen George Brant, Rob Hirst and Nathan Graham worked with crews from Kiowa Line Builders to replace at least five broken poles there Feb. 27. To get to some of them, a backhoe had to dig through a foot of snow to create a makeshift road to the river. Once the snow was gone, deep mud sucked at the linemen's boots with each step.
"It's ugly," Brant said.
Graham fired up his chainsaw to clear a fallen tree that blocked his path on the south side of the river as crews prepared to re-string the line across the water's expanse.
"We're working on it," he said. "Just bear with us."
Page 2 of 2 - Crews worked well into the night and were out the door before 6:30 a.m., the press release states.
"The first thing we need to do is make sure our crews our safe, so they need to get some rest," Johnson said. "But it's hard to keep a linemen out of the field when there are members out of power. And a lot of those linemen are the members who are without power."
Customer Service Representatives are staffing the phones 24 hours a day. The massive volume of calls has made it difficult for many members to reach a representative, but Customer Service Supervisor Jennifer Mercer said the outages are still being logged.
"Our Outage Management System lets us know about your outage before you even call us," Mercer said. "But if you have a dangerous situation, such as a downed line or broken pole, definitely keep trying to call us until you get through."
The Co-Mo Operations and Engineering departments also are being staffed 24 hours a day to coordinate the crews' movements and handle the organization of the restoration process.
"Things remain the same for Thursday," said Senior Planning Technician Brian Hunsburger said. "We will continue to work on the outages that will get the largest number of members back on, and I'm anticipating some significant progress today."
Areas of key focus in the morning included but were not limited to Prairie Home, Pilot Grove, Boonville, Versailles and Gravois Mills. Members can keep up with the latest efforts, even if they are without power, through their smart phones or by calling relatives or friends who can check facebook.com/comoelectric. There is also an outage map available through the link at the top of the homepage at co-mo.coop.
"One of the focuses this morning will be a line that crosses I-70," Hunsburger said. "We made some progress on it yesterday before night came. That's not a project you can complete in the dark. We'll continue working on it today."
Johnson thanked the linemen who have come from other cooperatives for their assistance and the praised the members for their patience.
"It's tough to be without power for an extended period of time like this, but we're working on and we will get everyone back on," he said.
Co-Mo's service area comprises approximately 2,300 square miles in central Missouri.