Ice Storm of 1994
THE BIG FREEZE
Thursday, February 11, 1994
by Andrew Pouncey
Germantown saw s paralyzing ice storm on Thursday night, February 11, 1994. By the first of the following week, a majority of Germantown residents had electrical power restored, but many continued to go without power.
“Heeding the warning of the National Weather Services, Environmental Services personnel went on 12-hour shifts from Thursday at noon in anticipation of icy weather conditions. City officials quickly realized that the storm was to be far worse than anyone had anticipated,” Mayor Charles Salvaggio said. At that point, the city’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) was opened. City Administration and department heads and their staff were called out in the middle of the night to help clear roads and take further direction from the emergency command in the city hall.
Environmental Services and Parks & Recreation crews began immediately to clear fallen trees from roadways. “Our number one priority was to maintain emergency vehicle access to all parts of the city and to protect the public from downed power lines,“ Salvaggio said. “More than 60 employees worked our streets in potentially hazardous conditions to keep the roads clear.”
“I clearly remember that there were trees and lines down everywhere. My wife and I were grateful for a particular branch on a flowering cherry tree outside our bedroom window. It gave us privacy from our neighbors. After several hours of listening to ice falling on the trees, we heard a crack. That limb was gone. Soon afterward we heard an even louder crack and looking outside saw that the entire tree had fallen to the ground.”
By midnight Friday, the Germantown Fire Department had handled over 128 calls and 177 by midnight Sunday. Assistant Fire Chief (now Chief) John Selberg said that most calls involved checking out downed power lines and trees which had fallen on houses or gas lines. “Transformers were exploding; after we secured them, we called MLGW,” Selberg said.
An attic fire caused by a heating unit in a house on Germantown Road was quickly “knocked down.” Selberg said a burning gas line sent six-foot flames into the attic. No one was hurt. Fire personnel also responded to several emergency calls from people on ventilators. “We got them to the fire station and put them on emergency power,” Selberg said.
The Police Department logged over 167 extra hours for the regular officers and over 57 extra hours for the reserve officers. No business break-ins were reported during the storm, however, several acts of vandalism were logged, most involving shattered vehicle windows and personal property was taken from cars. Three police cruisers were damaged by ice and falling limbs, including Police Chief Eddie Boatwright’s car.
“Public services personnel worked around the clock to answer calls, and clean-up crews worked 12 hours shifts to keep streets clean and ensure emergency vehicle access to all parts of the city, “Mayor Charles Salvaggio said. The city’s Water Plant and the Sewer Plant operated throughout the disaster on emergency backup generators. Thanks to these emergency generators, the city was able to provide water and sewer services without interruption.
Harvey Faust, Germantown Parks & Recreation Director, who ran the Germantown Centre, made the Germantown Centre available as a shelter. They were able to provide warm food, a warm place to stay, cots, and showers. Margariete Shibley said, “they’ve spread out the red carpet and treated us like royalty,” obviously grateful for the warmth of courtesy and kindness during a state of emergency.
By 4 p.m. Saturday afternoon Emergency Services crews had cleared street closures from over 300 locations throughout the city. Throughout the ordeal, the city witnessed an overwhelming volunteer effort, neighbors helping neighbors, opening their homes to those who were without power.
Jim Sharkey, executive director of the Germantown Chamber of Commerce stated that “merchants were hurt substantially. Business dropped off Thursday with the freezing roadways, and over 90 percent were shut down Friday and Saturday when they were left without power. The roof caved in on Fleming Fine Furniture.
Across Shelby County, approximately 370,000 homes and businesses were left without power following the storm. Governor Ned McWherter declared a state of emergency as tons of sleet and ice all but immobilized nearly one-fifth of the state’s population.
Delta Exports, Inc. of Birmingham, Ala., a professional heavy equipment contractor, was hired to rid the city of the debris caused by the damaging ice storm. The cleanup began February 21st, and 10,000 cubic yards came out of the Kimbrough Woods area alone in the first four (4) days. The original contract called for two sweeps of the city over a 28-day period. However, volumes exceeded the anticipated 70,000 cubic yards of material, and the contract was extended for three additional weeks. A chipper was brought in to grind much of the material into mulch which citizens were later able to utilize. Most of the debris went to the Frank Road Landfill on the north side of Collierville.
President Clinton designated Tennessee as a major disaster area in the wake of the severe ice storm. Clinton’s decision meant that 68 Tennessee counties, including Shelby County, were immediately eligible for federal assistance. The city did apply for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) money from the federal government in an attempt to recover a minimum of 87 percent of the money they expended on the clean-up. Residents were able to tune-in to local Cable Channel 4 for an updated listing of the following day’s clean-up route by Delta.
Source: “Ice Storm Paralyzes Germantown”, Germantown News, Thursday, February 17, 1994