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MLGW reviews storm response, details plans to stop future mass outages

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Memphis Light Gas and Water officials broke down their storm response for the first time for City Council Tuesday.

“It is the third-largest storm in MLGW history,” crisis leader Alonzo Weaver said.

Weaver highlighted how the 2017 storm compared with others in the past; the only worse as far as power outages were Hurricane Elvis with 339,000 customers affected in 2003 and the ice storm with 3000,000 customers affected in 1994.

Officials said 188,000 customers lost power in the 2017 storm that they've dubbed the "Tom Lee Storm," since it knocked over the obelisk in Tom Lee Park.

MLGW's crisis team first met the morning after the storm at 9 o’clock.

“We immediately started calling in for outside resources, which were on the ground about mid-day,” Weaver said.

Officials said new technology helped them restore power more efficiently this time, including smart meters giving information in real time.

“One of the big advantages of smart meters is helping us restore power more quickly because it gives us more information,” MGLW CEO Jerry Collins said.

They also have installed 45 smart switches in the power grid, which work to stop power outages from spreading even during a storm.

“Rather than having 65,000 customers lose power initially, maybe only 19,000 customers lose power initially,” Collins said.

Officials said they planned to install more than 1,000 to cover the whole area. They budgeted $18 million over the next five years.

They also announced FEMA will likely help out with the 2017 storm cost and reimburse about three-quarters of the $15 million tab.

Officials said they hoped to reach full restoration by later Tuesday or Wednesday.