ST. LOUIS — Ameren will send another wave of workers to the East Coast to help repair downed power lines and other damage left in the trail of superstorm Sandy.
The local electricity and gas utility earlier this week had already sent 550 Ameren workers to Somerset and Lawrenceville, N.J., to assist the utility workers there.
"Now, as the aftermath is completed and folks are starting to be able to assess the damage, we're going to send another group of lineman and support personnel," said Ameren spokesman Brian Bretsch.
Bretsch said on Wednesday that the crews already there are having a hard time even moving around the area. Roads are covered by downed trees and electric lines, and traffic signals are out.
Ameren crews in the Midwest are just now starting to communicate with workers who had gone East as cellphone signals had been shoddy for the past couple days.
The workers will be assisting Public Service Electric and Gas Co., the largest publicly owned utility in New Jersey. On Wednesday morning, 51 percent of New Jersey residents were without power.
The Department of Energy estimates that 58,000 linemen, tree personnel and other utility support workers have headed to the East Coast to help with power restoration. Workers expect that full restoration could take as long as seven days.
The aid is part of a long-standing mutual support network organized by public utilities. Other utilities have sent workers to the Midwest during ice storms, and especially after strong storms in summer 2006.
"We had crews coming from all over the East Coast and all other parts of the country, so we'd like to return the favor," Bretsch said.
In addition to sending workers, Ameren will donate $25,000 to the American Red Cross and another $25,000 to the Salvation Army to help with storm relief.
Bretsch said safety will be the first priority for local crews, and day-to-day operations in the Midwest will not be affected.
"We definitely make sure that we have enough folks here to do the regular maintenance," Bretsch said.