High winds cause power outages


By COLIN M. STEWART

Tribune-Herald staff writer

Hawaii Electric Light Co. announced Tuesday that its employees spent Monday working to restore power to customers after high winds played havoc with transmission lines on the leeward side of the Big Isle.

Meanwhile, most of the windward side of the island was under a high surf advisory.

“The most serious problems (Monday) were in Waikoloa, where two separate outages occurred due to the wind,” said Curtis Beck, HELCO’s energy services manager. “The first knocked off power to about 820 customers in Waikoloa Village just before noon; the cause is not precisely known, but it is likely that the winds pushed one of our lines into another, causing a short. Power was restored to those customers by 3:30 p.m.

“The other outage occurred at 1:50 p.m. also in Waikoloa Village when the wind toppled a pole in Waikoloa, interrupting service to about 1,800 customers which was restored by about 3:40 p.m. Another incident occurred in the Kawaihae area where a roof blew off a home, with a piece hitting a HELCO distribution line, interrupting 10 customers for about eight hours between 12:22 and 8:40 p.m.”

In Hilo, Big Island Toyota and several other businesses in the Kanoelehua industrial area experienced an outage between 6:30 a.m. and 10:50 a.m. on Tuesday, but that was unrelated to the wind, Beck said.

“A burnt connection on a HELCO switch caused a partial loss of service,” he said.

High wind advisories have been in place for the island for most of the long weekend, according to the National Weather Service. An advisory denotes sustained winds of at least 30 mph, with gusts as high as 50 mph.

Tuesday’s advisory noted that a high pressure area far north of the Hawaiian islands would maintain “strong and gusty trade winds across the state through this (Tuesday) evening.” Only the Big Island’s mountain summits were free of the wind advisory, which was to remain in effect until 6 p.m.

“Winds this strong can bring down tree branches and may cause local power outages,” reads the advisory. “These winds can also make driving difficult, especially for high profile vehicles on bridges and overpasses. … Motorists should use extra caution when driving.

The National Weather Service also posted a high surf advisory for all east facing shores in the state through 6 a.m. Thursday as a result of the windy conditions. The advisory calls for surf between 7 and 10 feet, with occasional higher sets of waves.

“Expect strong breaking waves, a pounding shore break, and strong longshore and rip currents making swimming difficult and dangerous,” the advisory states. “Beachgoers, swimmers, and surfers should heed all advice given by ocean safety officials and exercise caution.”

The winds have impacted HELCO’s system, Beck explained, by causing trees, branches and other objects to contact power lines.

“Various areas of the Big Island have been affected, including Waikoloa, Kawaihae, Lalamilo, Ahualoa, Kukuihaele, Papaaloa, Puna, and other locations,” he said. “HELCO personnel were dispatched and worked throughout the weekend to restore power to all customers.”

As a safety reminder, HELCO urges the public not to approach or touch any downed power lines or equipment. If a person sees a downed power line, he or she should stay as far away as possible and report any damage or outages to HELCO’s dispatch center at 969-6666.

For more information and safety tips on what to do if your power goes out, you can visit HELCO’s website at helcohi.com and click on the “Safety and Emergency” tab.

Email Colin M. Stewart at cstewart@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

 

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