Beale Street Blackout: Did officials make the right call?

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A first of its kind black out in Memphis Friday night left a lot of people asking questions about what happened, and how public officials handled it.

Power went out just after 8:30 Friday night, but police didn’t start evacuating Beale Street until after 10 p.m. This area has had some violent incidents recently, leaving some people wondering why it took police almost two hours to make that call to shut it down.

Gale Jones Carter with MLGW says downtown Memphis has never suffered an outage like this before.

“There may have been smoke but it was not a fire,” she said.

The power grid downtown runs underground. Carson says a fault on one of the cable lines caused the outage, which knocked out a an entire sub station.

“This substation going completely down has never happened. The downtown grid is considered the most reliable that we have,” sh said.

And that reliable grid is why the Downtown Memphis Commission waited more than an hour before they decided to clear Beale Street.

Paul Morris said, “I think most people initially were just expecting the lights to come back on. Even when I called MLGW, they thought they would be able to get it back on pretty promptly.”

But Morris explained that was before MLGW realized what had happened. Once they did, the timeline for the outage got longer, and police started clearing the remaining stragglers off the street.

Even with the lights out, and most restaurants locking their doors, Morris says Beale street was safer then most of downtown that night.

“We had Beale covered with lots of police and lights’ Morris said. “It was fairly bright compared to the rest of that area so I thought the safest place for people to be was on Beale Street.”

WREG asked MLGW officials if they were in communication with the police about the outage. They told us they were communicating with their customers who were affected by this and the media to get updates out, not police who were managing the fallout in the streets.

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