Storm knocks out power across Big Island

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Fishermen sit along the break wall in the rain Monday in Hilo.
  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Drain pipes spit out rain water Monday in downtown Hilo.

While the former hurricane Barbara was too weak to cause significant damage to the Big Island, it still succeeded in knocking out power to much of the island Monday.

As rain lashed the windward side of the island Monday morning, power outages struck residences and businesses across the island from Hilo to Kona and several communities in between. Hawaii Electric Light spokeswoman Kristen Okinaka said the power outage affected about 51,000 customers.

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Power was restored to most customers within 30 minutes of the outage, with the last affected customers restored by early afternoon.

Okinaka said the power outage was caused by faults on two transmission lines that disconnected independent power producer Hamakua Energy Patners from the greater power grid. The cause of the faults is believed to be windborne debris interfering with the lines, Okinaka said, although crews were still investigating late Monday.

The power outage also temporarily interfered with the operation of traffic signals around the island. The Hawaii Police Department reported that most of the traffic signals were restored by Monday afternoon, although they alternately attributed their failure to a power surge and rolling blackouts, which Okinaka said were not correct terms.

Heavy wind and rainfall lasted throughout Monday, with the National Weather Service issuing a flash flood watch for the entire island for much of the day. A high surf warning also was issued for windward coasts until this morning.

According to National Weather Service data, some windward sites on the island received more than 2 inches of rain within 24 hours on Monday. A rain gauge in Mountain View received 2.1 inches of rain, a Piihonua gauge received 2.2 inches, and a Hakalau gauge recorded 3.2 inches.

Hilo International Airport received 1.3 inches of rainfall.

Rainy weather is expected to continue throughout the week, as the scattered remnants of Barbara — now no longer a hurricane or a tropical storm — pass over the island. Winds are expected to be breezy until Wednesday, when they will be slower.

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Hawaii Electric Light Co. advised residents to be alert, as severe weather can cause trees or tree limbs to bring down power lines and snap utility poles. Residents are urged to report any downed lines to HELCO right away and assume that any downed power line is energized and should stay at least 30 feet away.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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