Mid-Southerners prepare for round of extreme cold days before Christmas

Published: Dec. 21, 2022 at 10:34 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - By Thursday night, Memphis will officially be in the deep freeze.

On Wednesday night, Action News 5 got a good look at the mad rush to get ready for the arctic blast on top of the last-minute Christmas shopping scramble.

All across town, Memphians gassed up their cars.

The experts say not to head into the bitter weather pattern with less than half a tank in case you get stuck in traffic and need your car and heat to keep working.

“Getting gas in case we need it later,” said driver Hank Word. “You don’t want to run out when it’s slippery on the roads. You want to be able to get where you’re going and then come home.”

Bluff City residents also stocked up on groceries, with some shopping for necessities, and others loading their carts with goodies for a holiday feast with family.

At the Cash Saver in Midtown, Paula Echols wrapped up her grocery and holiday shopping lists.

“I have my milk and my eggs, so I’m ready,” said Echols. “It hasn’t been too bad. I mean, the lines are long, but you just have to pack your patience. And I’ve done all I’m going to do.”

The lines were long, but moved quickly. Many baskets were full to the brim.

Barbara Thomas, a former Chicagoan, was already bundled up head to toe for the coming cold front.

”Stay where it is warm,” she said through a thick scarf. “Stay warm in the house.”

Sisters Bobbie Glover and Dorothy McGowan loaded their trunks up with huge boxes of apples and oranges to give away at Christmas.

“Our mother always did this,” said McGowan. “She gave everybody a piece of fruit.”

“We lost our mother in June,” said Glover, “so we’re going to try and keep up the tradition.”

As for the roads, the City of Memphis and TDOT already pre-treated some areas with an anti-icing brine solution.

Priority is given to bridges and overpasses, major streets, and the roads that emergency responders use to get to hospitals, fire stations and police precincts.

The Hospitality Hub Downtown will also serve as the main warming center for the homeless.

“They’re the lead agency on cooling and warming centers,” Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland told Action News 5, “So they’re going to be a warming center. But we expect, because it’s going to be so cold, we’re going to have an overflow crowd.”

Mayor Strickland said the city will open more warming centers as needed, and transportation will be available to those who need it.

The Memphis Public Works Department said it has 14 salt and sand spreading trucks, 7,000 tons of salt and sand, and 10 snowplow attachments, used only if Memphis gets more than three inches of snow.

Dealing with snow, ice and bitter temperatures isn’t much fun, said Memphian Virginia Glass.

“I don’t like it. It’s not for me,” she said. “So, we’re going to eat chili beans and soups and stay home because it’s going to be bad.”

But deal with it we must, as Memphis prepares for windchills below zero on Thursday and Friday, and Santa’s arrival on Sunday.

“Stay home, if you can. If you don’t have to go out, don’t go out,” said Hank Word as he finished filling his gas tank, “but if you do have to go out, go slow, be careful and look out for everybody else.”

“Make sure the pipes are covered,” said Paula Echols, offering helpful advice, “and leave the cabinets open. Leave the water running. And snuggle up!”

MLGW is reminding customers to set their thermostats no higher than 68 degrees to save money on their winter utility bills.

Also make sure your devices are fully charged and have a flashlight handy just in case the power should go out while it’s raining or snowing.

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