Ameren Illinois Utility crews at 8 a.m. today have restored power to about 26,000 of the nearly 30,000 customers who lost power when a fast moving storm packing winds of up to 50 mph raced across Illinois yesterday afternoon and evening. Most customers' service will be restored by mid-day with isolated outages restored this afternoon.

"Safety is our first and foremost concern when severe storms strike," said Ron Pate, vice president of Regional Operations for the Ameren Illinois Utilities (AmerenCILCO, AmerenCIPS and AmerenIP).

The service restoration effort was somewhat slowed by the extreme cold, high winds and the need to coordinate power restoration with the Ameren Illinois Utilities' natural gas operations.

When an outage occurs during extremely cold weather, homes and commercial buildings will cool rapidly. Since most homes and businesses use natural gas for heating, the restoration of electrical service to a large number of customers at the same time may cause a sudden surge in demand for natural gas. This large sudden demand may cause the natural gas pipeline pressure to drop to a level insufficient to maintain service. To prevent this situation from occurring, electrical service is brought back in stages.

The gradual restoration of electrical service in cold weather helps assure the safe, reliable delivery of both electricity and natural gas to Ameren Illinois Utility customers.

Tuesday's high winds damaged power poles and brought down electrical wires. Outages occurred in all areas of the state with the greatest number in the eastern and southern portions of the Ameren Illinois Utility service territory.

"We appreciate our customers' patience during these disruptive service outages," Pate said. "Our linemen, contractors and other personnel will continue to work until every customer has service restored."

With predictions of another storm event for Thursday evening and Friday, customers need to be prepared for the possibility of more severe weather before winter comes to an end.