Brrr! And that is putting it mildly. It was cold as (insert your preferred word here), with snow levels deeper than the boots of some and traveling conditions that posed threats to life.
Blankets of snowfall, icy roads and single-digit wind chills froze movement around the city this week.
Monday’s (Feb. 15) temperatures plummeted to near zero as government offices shut down and COVID-19 vaccine stations canceled all appointments.
Snow continued to blanket Memphis Wednesday (Feb. 17) evening, adding to the traffic misery.
Wednesday’s temperatures remained in the low 20s, with windchill factors in the teens. Temperatures are expected to remain in the 20s Thursday, with a chance of more precipitation.
The sun is forecast to reappear Friday, with temperatures in the high 20s.
Icy conditions on roads and bridges continued to make travel dangerous for private citizens, disrupted the operations of emergency vehicles and impeded the delivery of goods and services.
Grocery stores and fast-food restaurants limited their hours of operation, if not closed for business altogether.
All the accompanying problems are plaguing households and businesses in a winter storm – broken water mains, burst pipes, frozen pipes under the sink and, power outages.
Warming centers opened around the city, and Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland declared a state of emergency as residents and businesses hunkered down and sheltered in place against the brutally cold conditions.
The Memphis Fire Department and the Office of Emergency Management personnel worked to make sure people without shelter are taken to warming centers.
Social service agencies and restaurants donated food to warming centers. Three meals a day were being served.
Approximately 150 persons have sought shelter in warming centers, which have been opened 24 hours each day, according to officials.
By Wednesday, two heavy snowfalls wrapped the city in 2-6 inches of snow. The area remained under a Winter Storm Warning set to expire Thursday evening.
The virtual learning model adopted by Shelby County Schools has been unaffected by the snow and wintry weather.
“There is no need for snow days because the students don’t have to go outside in the weather to get to school,” said the Rev. Larry S. Lewis, a retired teacher, who taught math more than 40 years.
“My wife, Brenda, is a teacher at Bethel Grove Elementary, and they have maintained their regularly scheduled classes every day this week. The virtual model makes all the difference.”
Cheryl Walters said she has braved chilling cold weather before, living on the street, but it can be scary in freezing temperatures and icy snow.
“I’ve been out here for a few years now,” said Walters. “There are people who were out here with me, and they aren’t here anymore. You can go to sleep in that cold, and it will just kill you. The police have just come and found people on the street wrapped up in a blanket. But they didn’t make it.”
Walters is taking shelter in a warming center..
Presently, there are three warming centers in Memphis: The Ruth Tate Senior Center on Marjorie Street in South Memphis; The Lewis Senior Center on North Parkway in Midtown and the Hollywood Community Center on North Hollywood Street in North Memphis.
Families without power are encouraged to get to the nearest warming center. If transportation is an issue, or a ride is needed, contact the city of Memphis Call Center at 3-1-1.