SEMO Still Without Power - KAIT-Jonesboro, AR-News, weather, sports

Josh Harvison Reports...

SEMO Still Without Power

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SOUTHEAST MISSOURI (KAIT) - Thousands of homes across northeast Arkansas are still without power but progress is slowly being made; however, small towns in southeast Missouri are wondering if they'll be forgotten.

According to Southeast Missouri Electric, 8,800 homes are without power in the Missouri boot heel. 5,800 are customers of Pemiscot-Dunklin Electric Cooperative, which has more than 950 linemen working to restore power.

"We had signed up with the Red Cross a while back to be a Red Cross shelter, and when I asked that question, they were like, we're overwhelmed. We can't do anymore," said Hornersville Mayor Richard Mara. "We are completely without power, and have no idea when we can expect to see power back."

The entire cities of Hornersville, Senath and Cardwell are without power, except for those individuals and businesses with working generators. Hornersville and Cardwell have had problems with generators given from emergency services.

"Three of the four generators they sent us at first were bad and wouldn't run," said Mara.

In Cardwell, city employees were able to get all seven generators working. Mayor John Prince said Saturday three of the seven were not working, with a fourth one sputtering. Generators provide power to critical services, such as water towers, lift stations and sewage plants.

"We have pretty well have the generator situation under hand right now," said Prince.

Mayor Prince said Tuesday utility crews were working in his city, and said he's hopeful to have power by the weekend. While no timetable has been given, Pemiscot-Electric said it hopes to have power restored to most areas within 2-3 weeks.

"They are saying 2-3 weeks is what I'm hearing so far with the damage we've seen so far," said Robert Harris of Diversified Services, a utility company based out of Daytona Beach, Florida.

Harris said the damage in southeast Missouri and northeast Arkansas has been much more severe than any hurricane he's worked. He's been working as a lineman for 30+ years. "We're going through and reinstalling the primary on the poles, and the services. We're doing the cleanup work to try to get it ready to restore the power to the area," said Harris.

Heavy rains Tuesday slowed down power crews working on the lines. Mayor Prince said he's been told electricity could be restored by Friday, but only if Mother Nature cooperates.

"The situation hasn't really changed that much. We're still without electricity. The crews have moved into town from Pem-Dunk and they're busy working all over the city restoring the lines and so on," said Prince.

Prince said his city is already operating on a minimal staff. He's been calling on his residents to volunteer time and resources, but the poverty-stricken community has been barely meeting needs.

The Salvation Army and American Red Cross have helped shelters in Cardwell and Hornersville provide warm meals and fresh water for victims of the ice storm.

"I'm sure they're in the same boat as we are, this is what, the 13th day without electricity, it turns into a real battle, just the routine things," said Prince.

"Over the last 3 days we've fed 1,900 people, you know breakfast lunch and dinner in all combines," said Mara. "We're the smaller towns and we're down there south and we don't have a whole lot o people to do a whole lot of jobs."

HOPING FOR FEDERAL ASSISTANCE

Mayor Prince Tuesday said he's hopeful President Barack Obama will declare Dunklin County a Major Disaster. He said his town's thin budget has been hammered from the ice storm. He's spent hundreds of dollars on diesel fuel to keep 7 generators constantly running.

"I hope there is some help out there because Cardwell being a small town and a small amount of money, we need all the help we can get," said Prince.

"People are starting to get a little itchy and are like, are we going to see any light at the end of the tunnel," said Mara.

Prince said the government has helped his citizens with the National Guard. He's been given military ready foods and fresh water to give residents. Those are given out at the Cardwell Community Center, which has been the city's shelter since the Thursday after the storm.

Prince said the shelter has fed as many as 468 meals in one day. It's averaging 400/day.

"Hopefully when this is all said and done so folks can help us out, but we hope to be reimbursed for the diesel and so on," said Prince.

Prince also said the National Guard helped the fire department extinguish a fire Monday night. The fire department has been stretched due to helping with ice damage. The fire gutted the house. No one was injured in the fire.

"When the humvees start going down the road, these guys know that there's somebody else out there watching them then just the local guys," said Mara.

GENERATOR SAFETY

Electric companies Tuesday warned people still without power to keep in mind the safety of utility crews. Harris said people are plugging their generators into their homes, which could back feed into power lines outside.

Harris said his company won't touch a power line near your home if a generator is plugged improperly.

 "Our biggest concern out here is people hooking generators right into the services into their house. They don't realize the induced voltage out on the line, the danger to the linemen out here," said Harris.

"People don't realize 110 volts on the low side of a transformer can come out 13,000 volts out the high side, and kill the guy on the line," said Harris.

Officials with Pemiscot-Dunklin said more than 950 linemen have been working 16 hour shifts, trying to restore power as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Mayor Prince said he hopes utility crews can continue to work those long days to help his city, and other cities, recover.

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