Memphis Light, Gas & Water customers have been asked to voluntarily reduce their power usage until further notice as Greater Memphis grapples with a life-threatening winter storm that prompted rolling power blackouts by the Tennessee Valley Authority as single-digit temperatures essentially led to sheltering in place.
Doug McGowen, MLGW’s new chief executive officer, stressed the need for voluntary compliance during a virtual media briefing at mid-day on Friday. Amid the briefing, he learned that TVA’s morning call for rolling power blackouts had been rescinded.
“Now things could change and we may have to implement them again,” said McGowen, noting the tenuous of the situation. “I’m not promising … my very great hope is that issue has passed. But as quickly as it came on, I think we would all be wise to be prepared in the event that we do have to go there again.”
Amplifying on the voluntary reduction of power usage, McGowen said, “… washers, dryers, irons, electric space heaters, those things that draw a lot of electrical power. I would ask that you curtail their use until further notice.”
Overnight, the temperature gauge hit one degree, with snow and ice that fell before the plunge making for a wintry-mix misery that sent Memphis into a coping mode as first responders and volunteers were taxed to meet the widespread need.
While the worst – temperature-wise – is projected to be over, severe and dangerous cold is expected to be in the area for days. The National Weather Service forecasted sunny and cold for the afternoon, with a high near 15 and wind chill values as low as -6.
The overnight forecast was for mostly clear with a low around 11, with windchill values dipping to -1.
Here is the NWS forecast for Saturday through Christmas Day:
Saturday: Sunny, with a high near 26. Wind chill values as low as zero. West wind 5 to 10 mph.
Saturday night: Mostly clear, with a low around 16. Wind chill values as low as 9. Northwest wind 5 to 10 mph.
Christmas Day: Sunny, with a high near 30. Northwest wind around 5 mph.
Christmas night: Increasing clouds, with a low around 20. Calm wind becoming south around 5 mph after midnight.
As the media briefing unfolded, McGowan said work was underway to restore power to about 13,000 customers experiencing a power outage as a result of the storm, with “a number of crews, both overhead and underground crews, out there doing that work right now.”
He also said crews were working to restore power to “everybody who we cut off with intent to meet that five-percent load shed (associated with TVA’s power blackout call).
Chandell Ryan, chief operations officer for the City of Memphis, said Mayor Jim Strickland, has issued a state of emergency for the next seven days.
Detailing warming-city operations for those in need, Ryan noted the flow to the Hospitality Hub and said the city had opened the Hickory Hill Community Center at 3910 Ridgeway Road. About 160 people used the centers on Thursday.
“Those seeking shelter accommodations are encouraged to seek assistance from our partners as well at the Union Mission Men’s Shelter (901-526-8403) … also at the Salvation Army … by calling the 24-hour hotline at 901-529-4545.”
Ryan noted that Memphis Area Transit Authority has suspended services, adding, “for now, just keep looking for updates on when they may resume services there.”
Those seeking MATA services to get to warming-center shelters can still call to get assistance.
The Memphis Police Department’s inclement weather policy for crashes was still in effect, Ryan said, with 303 motor vehicle crashes reported over the last 24 hours
For minor crashes with no injuries nor a need for a wrecker, drivers should exchange information. They can report to any of the nine stations in the next 48 hours to report the crash, Ryan said, adding, “Please watch out for first responders when they are responding to emergencies and when they’re outside of their vehicles working traffic events.”
Solid waste collections for Friday were suspended.
“City crews will be working overtime throughout the week following the Christmas holiday to restore services,” Ryan said. “Customers experiencing delays are asked to leave your garbage and your recycle carts at your curb until collected. For more information on your collection schedule and to receive notification of service changes, you can download the city of Memphis Curbside collection app.”
Public Works Director Robert Connect detailed efforts before, during and after the brunt of the storm to deal with roadways
“I have observed that there are quite a few areas where there are black ice conditions and icing throughout. We are advising citizens to avoid driving to the maximum degree possible. It is wise to avoid, if you can, any driving. If you do drive, please exercise caution. Slow your speed, give yourself more than enough adequate distance.”
As for TVA’s rolling power blackouts invoked under what is called “Step 50,” McGowen said it was the first time TVA had ever invoked step 50 here as a result of a winter storm.
“Immediately after this, we’ll go back and see what there is that we can do; whether we can get some more preemptive information that will help us plan a little better. We will also look at our internal policies so that we can provide you a better heads up on the areas and the ways in which we might do that.
“Since it is the first time we have had to do this today, there’s a lot of lessons learned already,” he said. “I can’t tell you exactly what measures may be taken by the Tennessee Valley Authority. I do know they have substantial ability to generate power. I do not know yet what the issue is that’s causing them. There were several principal generation sources that were offline for whatever reason.
“So, you can bet when we get the information we’ll come back to you to see if there’s something we can do to prevent that in the future.”