Businesses, shoppers challenged by rolling blackouts on Christmas Eve

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — With just hours until Christmas, Memphians faced the most uncertainty about their power in the city’s history.

As of Christmas Eve afternoon, MLGW said there is no need for further rolling blackouts, but clarified that was subject to change at a moment’s notice.

Hours after those rolling blackouts ended, businesses and homes in the Grahamwood neighborhood remained without power.

“Because there are no lights on, customers think we’re closed even though we are open,” Kaled Ali of Magic Wireless on Summer Avenue said.

RELATED: MLGW ends rolling blackouts, working to restore power

Ali said he was trying to make those last-minute holiday sales in spite of his storefront being dark due to the blackout.

He conducted business only through cash or the Cash App and kept track of inventory with a pencil and paper.

“This is the first time in the history of the TVA and the first time in MLGW’s history that we have ever had to do load curtailment, or rolling blackouts,” Dough McGowen, president, and CEO of MLGW said in a news conference Saturday.

The rolling blackouts meant long lines at intersections where traffic lights had gone out and homes without heat.

“Well, I was just sitting there in the living room and everything cut off,” a Grahamwood neighbor said.

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The situation led some to rely on old-world methods of keeping their homes warm.

“Starting fires pretty much,” Andrew Cofield said. “We had a fire at my house last night and this morning.”

According to MLGW, the outages were supposed to last for only 30 minutes, but technical challenges meant crews had to head to the field to manually reset some breakers, leading to much longer outages for some.

RELATED: MLGW issues boil water advisory for all customers

On Dec. 23, one of the city’s own warming centers was forced to close due to a lack of heat.

“While we were able to turn them off remotely, turning them back on, we had an 80% success rate,” McGowen said.

For last-minute Christmas shoppers, the hours without power meant trial and error when it came to picking up gifts and groceries ahead of the holiday.

“We tried the High Point Grocery over on High Point Terrace and the Dollar General over on Summer and they are both without power,” a resident said.

“Really shocking, because obviously we walked in and the computers were down,” Ali said of the blackout. “It’s a little bit frustrating but luckily we’ve been able to make it happen.”

Salesmen and shoppers alike are hoping MLGW’s first experience with rolling blackouts will be its last.

“Pretty crazy,” Cofield said. “Hope it doesn’t have to happen again.”

MLGW reported that as of Saturday afternoon, more than half of its 400,000 customers had faced a blackout at some point during the freeze.