MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Heavy wind, rain and tornado warnings in the Memphis metro area Monday morning sent residents scrambling to take shelter and MLGW putting in overtime to try and clear debris and restore electric service.
In Frayser Monday, we found trees down, power lines down and power lines on cars. Winds brought down power lines at Thomas and Watkins that even started a small fire.
Curtis Alexander was sleeping in a back bedroom when he heard two loud crashes. Then, the lights went out. He fumbled for his clothes and ran outside, later discovering a massive tree ripped multiple holes in the roof.
“It was like a boom,” said Alexander, “Definitely counting my blessings. It was a blessing I got out of there.”
MLGW officials called damage widespread across Shelby County. At the peak of the storm at 6:30 a.m. Monday, 42,500 customers were without power.
“This will be a multi-day restoration. It will take us a couple days, probably three days, to get everybody back because of the extensive damage,” said MLGW President and CEO J.T. Young. “We suspect because of the extensive damage we’ve seen so far, not everybody that’s out will be able to take power.”
The utility activated its crisis team and called in 20 out-of-state crews who are expected to arrive Monday night and begin work Tuesday.
Officials said the bulk of the damage to MLGW's infrastructure likely appeared near the southeastern loop of I-240, where late Monday afternoon National Weather Service officials confirmed an EF-1 tornado touched down.
"We had circulation. We've seen damage from winds going in one direction and the exact opposite direction. That wrecks havoc on our equipment and our facilities," Young said.
MLGW officials in a news release called the storm "unexpected."
"I don't think this storm was predicted at least that we heard, to be as severe as it was, to have as high of winds as it had and to be moving as it was," said Young, "This kind of caught a lot of us off guard."
WMC Action News 5 Chief Meteorologist Ron Childers said the severe threat was tracked beginning last week.
“By the weekend, it became obvious that we were going to be dealing with the potential of strong to severe storms in the Mid-South,” Childers said, “And the entire time our focus was on the threat for strong to damaging winds in the area.”
MLGW said at the peak of the storm approximately 41 schools were without power.
Shelby County Schools (SCS) canceled after-care and after-school activities but kept students in class.
“As the district continues to monitor conditions, we err on the side of caution and safety for our students,” a district spokesperson wrote on Twitter. “The average temperature is 65 degrees, and there is natural light in most classrooms. If neighborhood schools are without power, we know homes in the community likely do not have power. Rather than dismissing early in the rain and risking students arriving to homes in the dark, we will keep students safe and provided with meals at school.”