Electric service to approximately 1,400 customers was restored on Wednesday as crews continue to make progress on restoring power in the Puna District, according to Hawai'i Electric Light.
More than 200 workers have mobilized to work in the field on restoring power, including 26 electrical line crews, 14 tree trimming crews, and 30 construction crews contracted to dig holes for utility poles. Approximately 30 more crew members will be arriving.
The combined workforce will include crews from Hawai'i island, O'ahu, Maui, Kaua'i, and contracted companies.
"We understand how difficult things are for our customers who are still without power, so we’re grateful to have received so much support from across the state. We’re working extremely hard to safely restore power as quickly as possible," said Darren Pai, Hawai'i Electric Light spokesman.
"The magnitude of damage, especially concentrated in the Puna District, is greater than we’ve ever seen. Our preliminary estimate is that more than 200 utility poles and 130 transformers were damaged and need to be replaced," added Pai.
With the larger field workforce, crews continue to identify previously unreported outages and gather more details about the extent of the damage caused by Iselle. Currently, an estimated 6,300 customers are without power.
The process for restoring service involves many steps that need to be coordinated to ensure public and utility workers’ safety. Hawai'i Electric Light is also working on deploying the right resources to ensure crews can restore power as quickly as possible.
• Assess damage: Damage assessments by field crews identify the extent of damage and the specific materials – including poles, transformers, and power lines – that have need repair or replacement.
• Clear trees and debris/dig holes: Contracted tree trimming and construction crews then need to clear fallen trees and debris and dig holes for utility poles
• Install poles, restring lines, and install transformers: Electrical line crews can then be deployed to begin installing the poles, framing the cross arms on the poles, restringing lines, and installing transformers and other equipment.
• Repair main line first before energizing: Work is first done on the main lines serving subdivisions to restore the connection into those neighborhoods. Side streets can then be restored. Even after power is restored to a neighborhood, there may still be damage at individual homes or pockets of homes within a neighborhood that will need to be addressed separately.
Areas of work
On Thursday, electrical line crews expect to make progress in the following areas: Nanawale Estates, Leilani Estates, Hawaiian Beaches, Hawaiian Acres, Hawaiian Paradise Park, and portions of Upper Puna.
Some areas of focus on Thursday include:
• In Hawaiian Beaches crews have restored main lines along Kahakai Boulevard down to Puni Makai Loop. This allows crews to restore side streets along the way.
• In Leilani Estates, crews have restored power power along Leilani Boulevard and are now working on side streets.
• In Hawaiian Paradise Park, crews have restore most of the main lines along Paradise Drive and are focusing on the area between 21st Street and 12th Street, which suffered extensive damage from trees.
In addition, contracted tree trimming and construction crews are working to clear fallen trees, debris, and dig utility pole holes in Nanawale Estates, Hawaiian Paradise Park, Hawaiian Beaches, Leilani Estates, Upper Puna, and other areas throughout the Puna District. Restoration progress may be impacted by access due to storm debris, fallen trees, or other conditions in the field.
Even if customers don’t see crews in their area, work is being done to restore power to their communities. In many cases, additional work on the electric system is needed in other locations to restore service.
Although crews are making progress and restoration in many areas may be much faster, preliminary estimates indicate it could take up to three weeks – and in some cases, even longer – to restore power to the areas with the most significant damage. Actual restoration times for each location will depend on the extent of the damage.
Important safety information
As the restoration work progresses, Hawai'i Electric Light urges the public to remember these important safety tips:
• Do not handle or move any fallen or damaged utility equipment.
• Do not approach any downed power lines, as they may have electricity running through them and can be dangerous. If you see someone injured by a downed power line, call 911 for assistance.
• Use generators outdoors and away from flammable materials. Generators connected directly to your home may feed excess electricity back into power lines, creating a public safety hazard. Plug appliances directly into your generator, using extension cords.
• Unplug unnecessary and sensitive electronic equipment. Use high-quality surge suppressors for electric appliances that remain plugged in.
• Use batteries to power flashlights and lanterns. Do not use candles or other flammable fuel sources, as they are fire hazards.
• Be aware of trees and utility poles that were weakened by storm winds and have the potential for falling.
Hawai'i Electric Light continues to operate its Customer Information Center at the Hawaiian Shores Community Center in Hawaiian Beaches. Several hundred people have been visiting the center daily. Company representatives are on hand to answer questions from the public and provide the status of repairing the damage. A charging station will be available at the center. Customers may bring their electronic devices to the center and get them charged there. The center will remain open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. as the restoration process continues.