20 years: Remembering Feb. 11, 1994 ice storm - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

20 years: Remembering Feb. 11, 1994 ice storm

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Twenty years ago Tuesday on Feb. 11, 1994 Memphis and the Mid-South were paralyzed by a devastating ice storm.

Hundreds of thousands lost electricity. Schools were closed for at least a week and emergency management  scrambled to cope.

The storm happened a generation ago but people who posted on FOX13 social media still have vivid memories.   The weather put life on hold, crippling the Mid-South.

MORE: Sleet and snow in the Mid-South Feb. 12, 2014

MORE: Winter Weather Resource Guide

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Maria wrote on Twitter, "I remember going out thinking. I was going to play in snow and picked up ice!!"

Patrick tweeted: "I flipped my car over on Berryhill Rd. The ground refroze at night and I tried to go to the grocery store.  Big mistake."

on Facebook, Brenda wrote "A tree feel and smashed my daughter's car. We were without utilities for a week."   

Daphne also posted on Facebook, "I remember it well. My sister and I were both pregnant. We were without lights for months because we lived in the country."

The ice closed schools and grocery stores, left 250,000 people without electricity. Journalists covering the story didn't get a break.

"I had just started working at the station," recalled veteran FOX13 News video journalist Arthur Thomson. "We went out to cover it. Ice went through our transmitter out east and knocked us off the air for a week."

The February 1994 ice storm tested and broke the old model used by emergency management officials. Shelby County Homeland Security Director Bob Nations, who worked in northern Mississippi in 1994, said back then agencies worked independently.  

"I am not sure what you do," Nations said. "Here's what I do, and I am comfortable within my scope."

A management plan ended up being outdated and proven to be ineffective. What has changed in the wake of the two decades after 1994 to improve spend and quality of response after a weather emergency? MLGW said technology allows the utility and public to track problem areas.

"It will show you if a troubleshooter has been dispatched, if crews are working on the problem, and estimated time of repair," said MLGW spokeswoman Jackie Reid.

In 2014 first responders now use a management scheme that has everyone sharing information.

"MLGW is right there with us in the instant command, helping to coordinate all of their assets and their efforts," Nations said. "They're doing it at the same table with law enforcement, fire, public health."

Technology and new management models can do a lot, but experts warn that an ice storm is a beast that can't be tamed. When it happens some will lose electricity, and home and business will be left in the dark.

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