St. Louis residents struggle to keep warm in blackout caused by last week's winter storm

Monday, December 4th 2006, 6:17 am
By: News On 6

ST. LOUIS (AP) People slept among strangers and browsed a little longer in lighted bookstores during their search for warm surroundings Monday, the fifth day of a blackout caused by a winter storm.

After staying at a shelter in a converted recreation center since Friday, Angela Luster hitched a ride with the National Guard to check on her apartment.

"It's terrible. You just had to uproot your life," said Luster, 28. "We have to live by other people's rules and regulations. It's difficult being around people you don't know."

The Missouri National Guard was sent to the area after Thursday's snow and ice storm to make sure people were surviving without electric light and heat during the sharply cold weather.

Instead of a shelter, Anne Leners was able to share a friend's spacious house with a dozen other people.

However, the 46-year-old resident of suburban Richmond Heights said she had to put her cats in the only kennel her spouse could find that still had room, a county away.

After a run of temperatures only in the teens, the St. Louis area got a break Monday afternoon with thermometers showing almost 40.

The St. Louis-based utility Ameren Corp. said it would be several more days before power is fully restored.

"We've had some ice storms before. This one puts them to shame," said Ron Zdellar, vice president of energy for Ameren, who has worked for the company for 35 years.

About 296,000 Ameren customers in Missouri and Illinois were still without electricity Monday.

The storm also caused widespread power outages elsewhere as it blew snow and ice from Texas to Michigan last week and battered parts of the Northeast with thunderstorms and high wind.

The storm was blamed for 19 deaths, seven of them in Missouri.

The combination of low temperatures, downed power lines, ice-covered poles and brittle tree limbs hampered repair efforts.

"We knew when this thing hit, it would be far different from anything we've seen before," Zdellar said.

The National Weather Service was not forecasting any additional snow or ice in the affected region, but high temperatures this week were expected to stay in the 30s and low 40s.

Weather service meteorologists said the temperature Monday night would remain in the teens.

"If you're sitting inside your house without heat, it'll feel just as cold," he said.