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MLGW offers a behind the scenes look at the fallout of the December arctic blast

"I thought the council needed to know what happened behind the scenes,” said Councilwoman Patrice J. Robinson.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — On Tuesday, MLGW pulled back the curtain so Memphis City Council members could get some explanation to the water and energy crisis that plagued the county back in December.

“I know that it was a challenge for the community, but I thought the council needed to know what happened behind the scenes,” said Councilwoman Patrice J. Robinson.

MLGW President Doug McGowen said the arctic blast brought record demand for the Tennessee Valley Authority, and blew past projections entirely across the Mid-South. In addition, there was not as much energy being produced during the holidays.

“They had several units of generation, the coal-fire plants and several natural gas fire plants that did not normally operate that morning, so they weren’t generating power, so they lost thousands of megawatts of generation,” said McGowen.

When it comes to the water system, MLGW says compared to more Northern cities that typically sees colder temperatures, the pipes in Shelby County are not built as deep. With a more shallow freeze level, the pipes are more exposed to the elements.

“Typical freeze level is not all that deep and so we have thousands of miles of water mane, and so the best we can do is replace it with regularity, and that’s also part of our long term plan,” said McGowen.

City Council members also got the chance to offer solutions to the ongoing infrastructure issues. Possible ideas included getting community members involved in the process, and finding some way to offer assistance for those who lost water during the freeze.

“We probably need to look into people who had freezing pipes, pipes that burst, a lot of over usage of water because those pipes burst and look at giving those customers some kind of break on their bill,” said Councilwoman Robinson.

MLGW is expected to work with TVA to figure out why the energy projections were so off, and what this could mean for future of energy consumption.

“They intend to talk with all of the 153 local power companies, so this is a collaborative effort between the local power companies talking together and talking together with TVA,” said McGowen.

However, a major importance throughout the meeting was communication, and making sure MLGW customers can get water and energy warnings earlier and more effectively.

“How can we be better prepared with more of a heads up so we can tell people that’s a potential, and when we do, how do we get the word out to people as quickly as we can,” said McGowen.

McGowen also told ABC24 the utility company was exploring options in getting involved with the county wide disaster alert system. 

However, in the meantime, McGowen is urging people to sign up for the MLGW text alert system to receive rolling black out alerts and boil water advisories. Right now out of the 440,000 MLGW customers, only around 20 percent were signed up during the winter storm.

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