Mid-South braces for ice storm ahead

Published: Jan. 30, 2023 at 10:25 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Just one month after Memphis and Shelby County experienced historic rolling power outages and a boil water crisis, the community braces now for an ice storm.

While you worry about getting to the grocery store to stock up or the gas station to fill up, Action News 5 talked with MLGW, city and county leaders about how they plan to keep the lights on, the water running, and roads open.

With the damage estimate from December’s destructive arctic blast not yet added up, Memphis Light, Gas and Water (MLGW) employees geared up Monday night for another round of wicked winter weather.

“And should we need them, everybody will be called in,” said Gale Jones Carson, MLGW’s vice president of Community and External Affairs. “All hands will be on deck. Employees will be working 16-hour shifts, seven days a week until all services tied to the storm will be restored quickly and safely.”

While the utility focused on the potential for power outages and burst pipes, the City of Memphis, Shelby County Government, and TDOT crews worked the roads as best they could Monday, given the challenge an ice storm presents, with rain in the forecast before the big freeze arrives.

“So we spent the day pre-treating our bridges and overpasses with brine, so staff are continuing that now to complete all of our priorities,” said Memphis Public Works Director Robert Knecht. “Even some salt residue is better than none, and that’s what we’re trying to do here. We’re trying to prevent that ice from bonding to the pavement because once it bonds, it’s impossible to remove.”

Director Knecht said the city’s 16 salt and sand trucks pre-treated bridges and overpasses first, followed by roads near hospitals and police and fire stations.

Charles Newell, deputy administrator with Shelby County Emergency Management and Homeland Security, offered drivers important reminders:

“Get your car ready. Make sure you’ve got plenty of tread on your tires,” said Newell, “Make sure they’re properly inflated. Also, top off your gas.”

MLGW is renewing its call for customers to sign up for the utility’s text alert system to stay up to date on outages and repairs.

“We have about 90,000 customers who have signed up,” said Jones Carson. “We have about 440,000 customers, so we don’t even have a fourth of our customers signed up like we would like.”

Most school districts in Memphis and Shelby County announced they will be closed on Tuesday, just in case Mother Nature delivers another weather wallop to the Mid-South.

”But the best advice I could give,” said Newell, “if you don’t have to be out... don’t.”

Be sure to download the Action News 5 Weather App to stay informed about weather conditions in your neighborhood. It’s a free download from your device’s app store.

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