Power restored to 99% of MLGW customers, company says

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — MLGW has restored power for 99% of its customers after the third-worst storm in recent Memphis history, according to a release.

The ice storm across the Mid-South resulted in hundreds of outages in Memphis and the surrounding metro.

Crews are working to restore the remaining one percent, according to a release.

“This is our community—our neighbors, family and friends—who have been without power for more than a week. We’ve been able to restore 99% of customers who can take power and we will keep working as quickly and safely as possible to get the power back on for everyone,” MLGW said

As of 10:00 p.m. on Feb. 13, there are over 700 customers without power and over 300 outages.

Disconnections due to nonpayment have been suspended, MLGW said.

If you find yourself without power, you can still watch FOX13 LIVE in-app from your phone to stay up-to-date.

Restoration remains a dynamic situation and the February 3 storm is the third-worst in recent history, MLGW said.

MLGW said had originally said that all power would have been restored by midnight Feb. 11.

After receiving over 11,000 calls on the Saturday following the storm, nearly three times the normal amount handled on a daily basis by the company, MLGW received 2,920 calls on Tuesday by 3 p.m.

The ice storm which knocked out power to over 240,000 people also caused nearly $14 million in damages, according to MLGW.

In Wednesday’s press conference, MLGW CEO JT Young said the company hoped to have less than 25,000 people without power by Wednesday night, Feb. 9. That number would be down from the over 241,000 people MLGW said lost power at the peak of the power outages.

Young said his hope was that all customers would have power by Friday, a slight change from the company’s stance of hoping to have all power restored by Thursday at midnight, as expressed in Monday’s press conference.

To put the restoration effort following the ice storm into perspective, it took 16 days to completely restore power following “Hurricane Elvis” in 2003, according to MLGW.

Many of those outages came from downed trees. In all, 534 trees were reported down throughout the storm. As of Tuesday, 495 of those had been cleared, leaving 39 that still needed to be cleared, according to City of Memphis Director of Public Works Robert Knecht.

Knecht said he hopes to have those remaining trees cleared from the roadways by Wednesday.

MLGW said there were 90 contract crews and 19 MLGW crews working to get the power back on, along with 60-70 tree trimmers. In total, that means nearly 1,200 people are pitching in on the restoration efforts.

Across the county, 41 traffic lights were still out as of Tuesday.

RELATED: Majority of MSCS schools to reopen tomorrow, handful remain closed, school district says

Nineteen schools in Shelby County remained without power Monday, MLGW said in its afternoon update, but only two of those schools were in the Memphis-Shelby County School District.

MLGW said on Twitter Monday that they aimed for a 90% restoration rate by midnight on Monday, a number they were still trying to hit Tuesday at 3:20 p.m. when just under 89% of customers had power.

MLGW did reach that number by Wednesday morning though. As of 3 p.m. on Wednesday, almost 92 percent of customers had power.

SEE MORE: MLGW, Mid-South Food Bank partner to assist families with food amid power outages

Disconnections for non-payments are suspended until further notice, the company said.

Customers who have smart meters, have an online account set up, and have signed up for text alerts can text STAT to 67109 to get an update on their individual outage.

As of Tuesday, according to the City of Memphis, the city’s warming centers are closed. The warming centers had been opened by the city in an effort to give people shelter, heat and power during the storm. A total of 91 people visited the warming centers Monday night, according to the city.

The widespread outages also caused many to lose food. In Wednesday’s press conference, the Tennessee Department of Human Services advised that current SNAP benefit holders who lost food during the outages can receive replacement SNAP benefits.

In order to receive those, current SNAP benefit holders must fill out an affidavit detailing food lost during the outages and place it in the TNDH online dropbox. If people can not use the online dropbox, they may submit their affidavits at 4885 Stage Rd. or 6941 Winchester Rd.

For more on how to qualify for replacement SNAP benefits, click here.

Young said on Monday that many people have asked about underground power lines. He said it would cost about $6 billion to fully put lines underground. He said it is expensive and time-consuming to maintain underground lines and service those lines, so putting more power lines underground is not a cure-all remedy to outage issues.

Knecht, City of Memphis Director of Public Works, said it is important for Memphian to know that storm debris must be separated from regular, everyday yard waste. He said the reason is that the city gets reimbursed from FEMA for storm debris removal.

Contractors will pick up debris a number of times over the next few weeks. The first pass by contractors to remove storm debris began Monday in Whitehaven. Crews are contracted to remove ONLY storm debris, not everyday yard waste due to FEMA reimbursement issues.

“Trees are the challenge,” Alonzo Weaver with MLGW said.

J. T. Young called Memphis an “urbanized tree center,” and said that’s making power restoration a challenge. Young candidly said power restoration is “tedious in nature, difficult, challenging, and time-consuming.”

Young said $11M to $15M is budgeted for storm debris removal, but they will do whatever it takes to restore power to every single customer impacted.

“This is the most significant and severe weather event since the ice storm of ‘94,” Young said.

On Friday, Mayor Harris asked Gov. Lee to approve and forward a federal disaster declaration to the White House for FEMA funds.

“TEMA has asked emergency management officials in counties impacted in last week’s winter storm to prepare and provide damage reports. The reports will allow us to evaluate the impact of the storm on local infrastructure, facilities, and services, and then decide on next steps,” TEMA said in a statement to FOX13.

READ MORE: Mayor declares State of Emergency for Shelby County following winter storm

Click here for the most recent number of power outages and how many customers are currently affected.

To track the damage reports coming into the station, what FOX13 News or click here for a live updates story.

If you see a downed powerline or a tree touching a wire, do not approach it. Instead, call MLGW’s Electric Outage Hotline at 901-544-6500.

FOX13 compiled a list of tips to do before you potentially lose power.