Six days without power in freezing temperatures was bound to change Rusty Brombolich's plans for celebrating 20 years of marriage to his wife, Cheryl.
Instead of picking up flowers or dabbing on a bit of cologne, the construction worker in Collinsville, Ill., bundled up Wednesday night before heading outside to fire up the grill.
Opting out of a night on the town for their celebration, the family of four threw steaks on the fire and unplugged the fridge so they could plug in the TV without blowing out the generator. Then they nestled up with their two children and watched “Over the Hedge” with their two neighbors who are staying with them during the power outage.
By mid-day Thursday — the Brombolichs' seventh day in the dark — electricity still hadn't been restored to their house, which is one of 10 homes without power in a subdivision of 400.
At 11:40 a.m. ET Thursday, Ameren, the company that provides power to the area, reported nearly 44,000 people were still in the dark in Illinois and Missouri after a deadly snowstorm moved across much of the Midwest last week. The company predicted that some rural areas may not get power back on until Friday.
And more wintry weather may be coming soon.
Lake-effect snow was falling Thursday in northern Indiana. Forecasters predict six to 10 inches in that area by nightfall, with some spots getting a foot of snow. Some area schools were delaying the start of classes Thursday.
Cheryl Brombolich said Ameren told her the power in her house should be back on by 5 p.m. Thursday and that crews have been assigned to her case.
So far, she's keeping a positive attitude.
“You go fix something that gives 1,000 people power back, instead of fixing something that gives 10 people power back. You can get aggravated and frustrated but it doesn’t do any good,” said Cheryl, who thinks her job as the city clerk for Collinsville helps her keep things in perspective.
“I see the crews out there removing limbs, and they’re doing the best they can,” she added.
Patti Fisch, a neighbor of the Brombolichs, didn’t exactly share Cheryl’s outlook. Patti and her husband are staying at the local Super 8 motel until their power is restored.
“Seven days is just a little ridiculous,” said Fisch, an account technician for Collinsville. She estimated a cost of $500 for the week’s worth of hotel stays and meals out, on top of a considerable amount of food going bad in her deep freezer.
“My husband just had a pacemaker put in October. Luckily, we were able, financially, able to do what we’re doing. It’s very frustrating,” she said.
Ameren spokesman Leigh Morris could not say when specific areas such as Collinsville would be totally restored, but he did say the power company hoped to have full power restored by the end of the weekend.
The storm "left a very wide, lengthy path and also struck a lot of rural areas. Single outages take the longest – you can’t just go repair the circuit. You have to go customer by customer,” Morris said, adding that anyone still experiencing outages should call Ameren directly.
He added: “I never thought in my career, I would say this is truly a storm of historic proportions. This is a storm young folks will be talking about someday."