Tuesday, Oct. 03, 2023|
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More than 600 Hawaiian Electric customers in Hamakua will not have power restored until after Christmas following extensive damage from the “Kona low” storm system that struck Hawaii earlier this week.
According to a statement Thursday from Hawaiian Electric, roughly 650 customers along the Waipio Valley Road in Honokaa and in Ahualoa are still without power and may not have it restored until as late as the middle of next week.
Damage in the area includes 38 fallen power lines, and much of the damage is in remote areas that are difficult to access.
Hawaiian Electric reported that crews have to hike off of main roads for assessments and repairs, and trees and branches continue to fall on the power lines even after repairs are completed.
Crews will work through the holiday weekend, including on Christmas, to replace damaged equipment, according to Hawaiian Electric. Additional crews will be brought in from others islands to assist.
“We know this will disrupt holiday plans for families, and we can only apologize and ask for customers’ understanding of the situation,” Hawaiian Electric spokeswoman Kristen Okinaka said. “The safety of our crews and the public is our priority. Given the extent of the damage and the challenging terrain, everyone is working as quickly as they can and will continue working through the holiday weekend until the job is done.”
Hawaiian Electric urges residents to remain safe by always treating downed power lines as dangerous, to make sure portable generators are placed in well-ventilated areas outside the home, and that food can spoil during a prolonged outage even if it is not immediately detectable.
Residents are asked to report downed power lines to Hawaiian Electric by calling (808) 969-6666.
Those customers without power can access a shelter Hawaii County opened Thursday at the Honoka‘a Sports Complex “as a last resort.” The shelter has access to power, and the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army will be on-site to assist in county efforts.
The shelter is pet-friendly, but pets must be in carriers.
“We’ve been in constant communication with Hawaiian Electric through the storm and continue to work together to ensure that essential services are restored to our residents in a timely manner,” Mayor Mitch Roth said in a statement. “Department of Public Works crews have been working around the clock to clear debris and repair roadways so that Hawaiian Electric is able to do their critical work.”
Hamakua Councilwoman Heather Kimball encouraged residents affected by the outages to fill out a survey by Hawaii County Civil Defense so that the county can better assess the damage caused by the storm. and to help obtain disaster relief funds. The survey, which will help the county obtain disaster relief funds, can be accessed at arcg.is/1b8CS1.
“I feel for everybody who had their Christmas dinners, with all the fixings in the fridge, and I hope everyone can still have a good holiday as best they can under the circumstances,” Kimball said, encouraging residents with power to reach out to those without. “I wish I could do more, but we have to rely on Hawaiian Electric in these circumstances.”
The “Kona low” storm also triggered a wildfire Tuesday after a lightning strike in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
The fire was 70% contained by Thursday afternoon.
The fire, which was first detected at 9:50 a.m. Tuesday, spread to about five acres within a remote wilderness area of the park. The site contains remnant dryland ‘ohi‘a trees and native shrubs, but is otherwise dominated by non-native grasses that make it easier for fire to spread.
Hilina Pali Road is temporarily closed past Kulanaokuaiki Campground to the Hilina Pali Lookout due to firefighting efforts. Only authorized vehicles are permitted until further notice.
Ka‘aha Trail is also closed.
Kulanaokuaiki Campground and Hilina Pali Road to the campground remain open, and drivers are reminded to observe the speed limit and watch for fire crews and vehicles on the road.
Email Michael Brestovansky at email@example.com.
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