Ameren Illinois field crews and support staff continue to battle weather and hazardous working conditions to restore service in the wake of yesterday’s strong winter storm that brought blizzard conditions to much of Illinois. Service outages peaked at 40,521 customers yesterday at 6:50 p.m. At 11:30 a.m. today, about 6,800 customers are still without power. At this time, it is anticipated that customers who are still without service will have their power restored by late this evening. However, outages may last longer if weather and working conditions deteriorate. Crews continue to work to replace broken utility poles and repair downed wires. "We are appreciative of the patience our customers have shown, but understand they want their service restored as quickly as humanly possible. We will be working throughout the day to achieve this goal," said Ameren Illinois President & CEO Richard J. Mark. Ameren Illinois has activated the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to direct the service restoration effort. About 1,000 Ameren Illinois field and support personnel have been assigned to the service restoration effort. A major cause of the power outages has been a phenomenon known as "galloping conductors." Galloping conductors can occur when strong winds blow across power lines, causing the lines to move up and down in a violent manner. This movement is known as "galloping," which often results in damage to cross arms on poles, insulators and even the wires, causing power outages. Mark stressed the importance of crew and customer safety. “It is our priority every day of the year, but it takes on added significance when severe weather strikes. The first safety rule is to stay away from downed power lines and always call us or '911' if you see downed lines. Never go outside in the dark because you won't be able to see a downed power line that could still be energized and dangerous. Stay away from brush, shrubs and downed trees that may hide downed lines." To report downed wires or other problems, customers should call Ameren Illinois at 1-800-755-5000. Outage and safety information is available at IllinoisOutage.com. Customers planning to use a portable generator must first open the main breaker or remove the main fuses before connecting the generator to the electrical systems. Failure to do this could seriously injure utility crews working on outside power lines, and/or cause damage to a neighbor's property or the customer's own equipment. Customers must never use a portable generator indoors, including in a home, garage, basement, shed or partially-enclosed area – even with ventilation because of the threat of deadly carbon monoxide poisoning. Ameren Illinois delivers energy to 1.2 million electric and 813,000 natural gas customers in downstate Illinois, and our mission is to meet their energy needs in a safe, reliable, efficient and environmentally responsible manner. Our service area covers more than 1,200 communities and 43,700 square miles. For more information, visit AmerenIllinois.com. Updates on power restoration efforts will be made throughout the day on Twitter @AmerenIllinois.com.