MLGW makes technology advances in wake of 'Hurricane Elvis' - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

MLGW makes technology advances in wake of 'Hurricane Elvis'

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MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC-TV) - Ten years ago, a storm so strong many swore it was a "hurricane" swept Memphis and the Mid-South.

The storm killed seven people, damaged more than $500 million in property and MLGW developed a new approach to restoring power in the wake of the 2003 super storm now nicknamed "Hurricane Elvis".

Ten years later, everyone from the utility's front-line to the powers-that-be say it will not take 16 days again to power back up when the next big storm rolls through.

The storm mobilized MLGW for a 10-year transformation. Better logistics, better training and new equipment like mini-derricks – smaller vehicles that can replace fallen poles in hard-to-reach places.

"When poles are in the rear of the address, we can actually get back there and set a new pole instead of hand-digging it," said MLGW Electrical General Foreman Earnest Holliday, who was a crew leader lineman repairing damage in 2003.

When "Hurricane Elvis" hit, Callen Hays' position didn't even exist at MLGW.

Today, the utility's crisis management coordinator huddles with his team in the utility's Emergency Response "war room." They monitor real-time outages online and link the data to customers via social media and a free iPhone/Android app. He said the new technology coupled with the freedom to marshal other municipalities' utility resources will reduce MLGW's response time in a storm as brutal as 2003's disaster.

"If it was the exact same event and it was the exact same magnitude, I think we could definitely shave three or four days off of the response," Hays said.

"With the training and with the high technology that's brought in, I think we're pretty much ready for anything," said Holliday.

Hays said another new technology that could shave another one or two days off of MLGW's storm response time: the controversial ‘smart meters' the Memphis City Council is debating. They are permanent and possibly voluntary meters that would automatically measure power consumption and alert the utility to outages by specific address. Opponents argued the meters are potential fire hazards and would cost meter-readers their jobs.

The council's scheduled to vote on the smart meters next month.

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