The Ameren Illinois Utilities has increased the size of its small army of field and support personnel to 1900 people working restore service in storm-ravaged Southern Illinois, where over the past 69 hours the lights have been turned back on for approximately 35,000 customers. Storms hit Missouri and Illinois last Friday.

Despite the widespread damage, AIU has been able to restore service to several critical care facilities, including Carbondale Memorial Hospital, Herrin Hospital, Ferrell Hospital in Eldorado, VA Hospital in Marion, Fountainview Nursing Home in Eldorado, Ridgway Manor in Ridgway, Marion Water Plant and the Carrier Mills Nursing and Rehabilitation facility.

At 10:20 a.m. today, about 33,800 AIU residential and business customers are still without electric service, down from the peak outage count of 68,800 customers. The Ameren Illinois Utilities anticipate the majority of all customers will have their lights back on by late Tuesday night. However, the unexpected severity of the damage in Carbondale means that service in and around that city may not be fully restored until Wednesday or Thursday.

"We appreciate the patience and support of all of our customers, many of whom are also dealing with damage to their own homes and businesses," said Ron Pate, AIU vice president of Regional Operations. "We want to reassure everyone that we will be on the job in Southern Illinois until the lights are on for every customer."

Up-to-date information on the electrical service restoration effort as well as safety advice and weather reports are available at IllinoisOutage.com. Also, the Web site features photos and videos of the storm damage and service restoration effort.

"The magnitude of the storm damage is making our service restoration work more challenging. We a have brought additional crews, support personnel and specialized equipment to get the lights back on safely and as quickly as possible," Pate said.

In addition, AIU has established a central crew and material staging area in Carbondale. Two Storm Trailers are now at the new staging area. There also is a Storm Trailer in Murphysboro and two in Marion. The Storm Trailers are mobile storerooms, stocked with the material field crews need to get the lights back on. The trailers are moved to central staging sites to provide essential materials in the areas with the greatest damage.

To further facilitate the restoration work, AIU has established a base camp in Marion to provide a centralized location to provide meals for personnel. Because of the shortage of motel rooms, the base camp also has trailers that can sleep about 200 AIU workers.