Major utility companies brace for oncoming storms

All of Hawaii’s major utilities are working to make sure their customers have what they need to ride out the storms.

While they are checking on their own supplies and placing crews on alert, utilities are also offering safety tips for their customers, even if they leave home for a shelter.

While Hawaii’s two major refineries – Hawaii Independent Energy (formerly referred to as Tesoro) and Chevron -  tell KHON2 they have sufficient supplies of fuel, drivers are already lining up to top off their tanks. While the Costco station in Iwilei is arguably always congested, the wait is longer now and there is a sense of urgency with the coming storms.

Jackie Collins was lucky this time with only a five-minute wait. “Once I got in, it wasn’t bad,” said Collins. “But I’m sure other people waited half an hour to 45 minutes.”

At the Sugar Mill Shell in Waipahu, memories of past severe storms have taught Wayne Yokota to call for additional supplies because his pumps can drain quickly.

“The last time we had one, one day, we went out. One day,” said Yokota.

Hawaiian Electric crews are already on the job. The storm will bring gusty winds and they don’t want their power lines tangled with tree branches.

The company is also offering safety tips to its customers. The company says before a storm hits or if there is a power outage, unplug all unnecessary equipment and appliances. If you need to leave for a shelter, shut off the electricity at the main breaker switch.

And be careful if you use a portable generator for power. “If you do so, follow the instructions in your manual,” said Darren Pai, spokesman for Hawaiian Electric. “And try not to plug directly into outlets in your home. They are not designed to do that.”

While Hawaii Gas is making sure its critical customers are supplied, the company wants its customers to be aware of one very important safety tip.

“We’re also telling our customers not to turn off the gas unless told by civil defense or another authority,” said Casey Nishimura, communications manager for Hawaii Gas.

The Honolulu Board of Water Supply is making sure all of its 172 reservoirs are topped off, and has moved generators to strategic wells around the island to keep the pump stations working should the power go out. You’ll find a list of water emergency tips here.

Finally, Hawaiian Telcom says even if its aerial cables are knocked down by the storm, services may not be affected unless the cables are actually severed.

As with all utility lines, you are asked not to touch them, as they may be electric power lines and potentially dangerous.

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