Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division implements system-wide “rolling breakdowns” as extremely cold temperatures and high demand throughout the system caused “a critical power supply situation”.
The outages began at 12:30 a.m. ET on Friday in an effort to avoid “major outages,” he said.
Service in an area will be interrupted for 30 minutes and customers may experience outages up to twice a day on average, according to a statement from the utility company.
It’s unclear how long the power outages will be in effect.
Water pumping stations, sewage treatment plants, hospitals and airports are excluded from power outages, according to the utility company.
“It’s a real fight. It’s never happened in my lifetime; it hasn’t happened in Memphis for at least 50 years,” Mayor Jim Strickland told CNN’s Kate Bolduan on Friday.
About 10,000 residents are currently without power, the mayor of Memphis added.
Wind chill is expected to reach -15 degrees today and road conditions have not improved in the city, Strickland said.
“The roads will be frozen for a few days. Memphis isn’t used to that,” Strickland said. “It’s different, that’s for sure.”
The Tennessee Valley Authority had not anticipated this situation before the storm, Strickland said.
In a statement, the authority said it was asking businesses and homes to immediately reduce their electricity consumption. “It is a necessary step to avoid much larger power cuts affecting the whole area,” he said of the reduced power supply to some areas.
CNN’s Marie Malzberg contributed reporting for this post.