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Hawaiian Electric spent $1.5 billion to up power plants for natural disaster preparation

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HONOLULU -

No word better defines Puerto Rico's hurricane season than devastating.

Clipped by Irma then ravaged by Maria. Hawaii should take note.

We've had busy years 15 named storms in 2015...

And when storms hit, Hawaiian Electric knows, electricity is a top priority..

"What we have done is strengthen our system, strengthen the grid across our service areas," Shannon Tangonan, HECO's spokesperson said. 

For the past several years, Hawaiian Electric Companies have spent roughly $1.5 billion to up their power plants.

"We've taken the time to really prepare ourselves for any kind of disaster," Tangonan said.

Replacing wood poles with steel ones - a better bet to withstand hurricane conditions.

But a hit to the transmission lines could mean longer lasting problem.

"We can't say days, weeks, months. It just depends on the kind of damage we sustain," Tangonan said.

Hurricane Iniki struck Kauai in 1992 - what happened there is hard to forget.

"Coming from Oahu, we had very minimal damage, but when we went to Kauai, it was just devastation," Shelton Choy, communications contractor said.

Back then, Choy was one of the GTE Hawaiian Tel workers dispatched to Kauai to help restore power.

"We were there for five months, with every island represented to do work there," Choy said.

He recalls the monumental task and the reality, everyone was in it together.

"I think the people of Kauai were very gracious and very understanding and people helped out. You know, neighbors helped out neighbors," Choy said.

But 25-years ago was a different time... And with technology changing, Tangonan says HECO's extensive fuel oil supply could be a difference-maker in helping get Hawaii back on its feet.

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