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4 die in Missouri as temperatures plunge
12-04-2006, 07:36 AM
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4 die in Missouri as temperatures plunge
ST. LOUIS - Frigid temperatures contributed to four deaths Sunday, pushing the toll from a devastating ice and snow storm to 19 as hundreds of thousands waited another day for their electricity to be restored.

Temperatures across much of the region were predicted to hover in the teens and 20s on Monday while wind chills should make it feel even colder, slowing down cleanup efforts, according to the National Weather Service.

The storm disrupted Amtrak train service between Chicago and St. Louis, but most of those lines were expected to be up and running on Monday, the company said in a release.

As temperatures rose into the 20s, Tawana Jean Cooper and her family sat at a Red Cross warming center in St. Louis, which they reached a day earlier from her suburban home after roads were cleared of ice, downed power lines and broken tree limbs.

Her three young grandchildren joined her at the shelter.

"They know this is not home. They know this is a disaster," Cooper said as she cradled her sleeping 5-month-old granddaughter in her arms.

"The American Red Cross has been a God's blessing," she said. About six dozen others also spent the night at the shelter.

Missouri National Guardsmen had been sent into the area to knock on doors and make sure people were safe. By early afternoon Sunday, the St. Louis temperature had reached only about 22 degrees, the National Weather Service said.

Two men, ages 37 and 35, died after they tried to burn coal in a cooking wok to stay warm. Fire officials found deadly levels of carbon monoxide in their home. A 56-year-old man may have suffered hypothermia, and an 81-year-old man was found dead at the bottom of his home's stairs.

"This is not over. As long as the power is still out, there are still people at risk," St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said.

Thursday's storm spread ice and deep snow from Texas to Michigan and then blew through the Northeast late Friday and early Saturday. Thousands of travelers were stranded by canceled flights, highways clogged by abandoned vehicles and stalled trains.

By Sunday afternoon, about 350,000 customers of St. Louis-based Ameren Corp. had no electricity in a roughly 300-mile swath from Jackson, Mo., northeast to Pontiac, Ill., paralleling the track of the storm. Spokeswoman Susan Gallagher said about 200,000 were in Missouri and about 150,000 in central and southern Illinois.

The utility said Sunday it would not estimate when power will be totally restored.

Trees throughout the region were glazed with a thick coat of ice that reflected the sunlight and also snapped tree limbs, bringing power lines down with them.

"It's slow," said Ameren repairman Bernie Kutz, after completing a job in south St. Louis. "The tools are freezing somewhat, and nothing wants to work right."

At the peak of the outages Friday, 510,000 customers were without power, Gallagher said. Hundreds of thousands also lost power in the other states hit by the storm.

In Peoria, Ill., fire officials urged homeowners to check their roofs after a nursing home ceiling collapsed, injuring four residents.

In Belleville, Ill., 20 miles east of St. Louis, most of the 100 cots at Westhaven Elementary School had been in use as a Red Cross shelter since noon Friday.

For much of the region, it was a reminder of the widespread outages caused by severe thunderstorms in July, when 948,000 in Missouri and Illinois were blacked out.

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