37,000 in Missouri still without power a week after ice storm

ST. LOUIS | All but about 37,000 homes and businesses in storm-whipped southern Missouri regained power by Monday night, but the remaining outages will be the toughest to restore.

At the height of last week's storm, when ice and snow paralyzed the region, 127,000 customers were without power.

"We are getting better," said Susie Stonner, spokeswoman for the Missouri Emergency Management Agency. "The easy restorations have been done. The difficult ones remain. They have to replace poles that were snapped, dig holes, and restring wire. That takes time."

St. Louis-based AmerenUE still had about 9,200 customers without power. It expected to restore power to all its customers by Wednesday.

Around 19,000 electric cooperative users remained without service, and the Missouri Public Utilities Alliance said about 9,000 of its member customers are still waiting.

Meanwhile, Sikeston emergency officials reported some cases of carbon monoxide poisoning in the city.

Sgt. Jim McMillen, of the Sikeston Department of Public Safety, said gas generators must not be run in an enclosed area. He said using propane or kerosene heaters not approved for indoor use can emit carbon monoxide and reduce oxygen levels in the home.

Missouri Delta Medical Center in Sikeston had three patients with critical carbon monoxide poisoning, and more with respiratory problems due to the cold, spokeswoman Sharon Urhahn said.

The hospital, which relied on a generator for four days until power was restored Saturday, is housing 25 chronically ill people in a special medical shelter. They're provided with nebulizers, oxygen and breathing machines they can't operate at home without electricity.

Six deaths — five in traffic and one from hypothermia — have been blamed on the southern Missouri storm, but Stonner said the toll could rise. Various reports of hypothermia and heart attacks related to snow shoveling are being reviewed but have not yet been confirmed by the state.

In rural Carter County, roads remained sloppy, but meals and water were being delivered to rural residents.

Forty percent of Scott County and 35 percent of Stoddard County were without power.

In New Madrid County, only the towns of New Madrid and Portageville have electricity.

"This was so massive," New Madrid County Clerk Clement Cravens said, explaining why it's taking so long to restore.

"It's a matter of miles and miles of major power lines coming into communities that are down. They can't get power to cities until the electric companies get in there and repair major transmission lines."

The Humane Society of Missouri put out a plea Monday for donations of dry dog food, dry and canned cat food, blankets, towels, newspaper or shredded paper, and money.

Donations left at the Humane Society's St. Louis headquarters will be taken Tuesday morning to temporary animal shelters the group is operating in Sikeston, Portageville, Poplar Bluff and Kennett, and in Scott, New Madrid, Butler and Dunklin counties.

The power outages will mean the week off for students at several southern Missouri colleges.

Three Rivers Community College has canceled classes through Friday at the main campus in Poplar Bluff and all satellite campuses.

Also shut down for the entire week are Southeast Missouri State University's regional campuses in Kennett, Malden and Sikeston, although te main campus in Cape Girardeau is open.