Big Island residents should prepare for extended power outages

big island trees on power lines

Hawaii Electric Light crews on Hawaii Island are continuing to work to safely restore power to customers who have lost electricity as a result of Tropical Storm Iselle.

Crews are coping with difficulties accessing remotely located and extensively damaged transmission lines.

The utility is advising customers who are currently out of power to prepare for extended outages, which could last through the weekend and in some cases, particularly the lower Puna area, much longer.

“We’re working into the night to continue restoring customers, but given the potential for some to be out of power for a very long time, we wanted to give folks as much time as possible to plan. We know what a hardship it is for our customers to be out of power for so long. We sincerely apologize and want to assure them we are doing everything we can to restore service as quickly as is safely possible,” said Jay Ignacio, president of Hawaii Electric Light. “In addition to our crews who have been working around the clock, we’re bringing in additional crews from Oahu and possibly Maui to mobilize the most resources possible.

“Iselle has dealt a major blow our island,” he said. “There’s extensive damage, particularly to several transmission lines in remote areas that are difficult for repair crews to access. On one line alone, there are 16 broken poles. We sincerely appreciate everyone’s continued understanding.”

At the height of the storm, about 25,000 – or 30 percent — of all Hawaii Island customers lost power. Currently, an estimated 15,000 customers remain without power in most of the Puna area, Kalopa-Paauilo, Kulani and surrounding areas, Pahala and surrounding areas.

“One of our top priorities today has been to restore part of the backbone of our transmission system. As part of that work, we were able to restore the transmission line tie to Hamakua Energy Partners. This was critical to ensuring we have enough power generation. As a result, we no longer need to ask customers to conserve power. We greatly appreciate the help of everyone who responded to the call to conserve,” said Ignacio.

For those who remain without power for an extended time, below are some food safety tips.

Refrigerated foods

  • Discard any perishable food that has been above 41 degrees Fahrenheit for more than two hours. Use a food thermometer to check the temperature of perishable foods such as meat, poultry, fish, and leftovers before you cook or eat it.
  • Always discard any items in the refrigerator that have come into contact with raw meat juices.

Frozen foods

  • Foods can stay frozen in the freezer for one to three days: one day for a half-full freezer, three days for a fully-stocked freezer
  • Food that has been thawed completely and has not been held at or below 41 degrees should be cooked and eaten immediately. If your food still has ice crystals, it’s safe to refreeze.

As a general rule, “when it doubt, throw it out.”

If your power is out for an extended period of time, consider using dry ice if available. Please remember to use gloves or tongs when handling dry ice. Dry ice can be placed directly on top of your foods, since dry ice cools things under it.

Customers who wish to submit damage claims can access a claim form online under the “residential services” section.

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