Friday, December 20, 2002

Power outages
disrupt Oahu

The scattered failures affect
30,000-40,000 customers, officials say

By Craig Gima

Scattered power failures affected an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 customers all over Oahu yesterday afternoon, sending police officers to direct traffic at major intersections, causing hospitals to go on emergency generators and interrupting people watching the University of Hawaii Wahine volleyball match.

"We were watching the game and then everything went," said Momi Aiko at the Ohana Karaoke 2 bar in Temple Valley. Aiko said there were about 20 customers in the bar when the power went out during the first game of the match.

"They all went somewhere else," she said. "How rude; we lost business on this one."

The power outage also snarled traffic as holiday shoppers and work commuters fought their way through the roadways.

Hawaiian Electric Co. spokesman Fred Kobashikawa said a problem with a 180-megawatt generator operated by AES Hawaii Inc., the largest independent power supplier to HECO's Oahu power grid, caused it to stop sending power at about 2:51 p.m.

Then, the 46-megawatt HPOWER generator and an 86-megawatt generator at the Kahe power plant also went offline, triggering a protection system that shuts off power at various locations all over the island so that the entire system does not go down.

HECO was able to increase power at its downtown, Waiau and Kahe power plants, and most customers were restored by 4:45 p.m., but a second series of outages affecting an estimated 25,000-30,000 customers occurred during the peak evening demand period between 6 and 7 p.m.

Kobashikawa said major hotels were asked to conserve electricity, but it was not enough to prevent the second outage.

However, HECO officials do not see a repeat of the problem today, Kobashikawa said. Officials have a good idea what happened yesterday -- although the cause is still under investigation -- and how to prevent it from occurring again.

Kaiser Medical Center, Wahiawa General Hospital and Castle Medical Center went to emergency generator power when electricity was cut off to their facilities.

Kaiser spokeswoman Jan Kagehiro said the emergency generators powered the operating room, emergency room, life support equipment and some lights.

Kagehiro said the power was out at the hospital until about 4:30 p.m. The hospital has an emergency plan to deal with power failures, which was activated.

Some appointments had to be rescheduled in Kaiser clinics because of the outages, Kagehiro said.

Officers assigned to the Kalihi station were pulled off hospital strike duty at St. Francis Medical Center to direct traffic because there were so many intersections without power, a desk sergeant said.

KSSK radio traffic reporter Jason Yotsuda said the outage and a couple of accidents added to an already heavy afternoon commute.

He said the Middle Street interchange and the intersection of Likelike and Kahekili highways were among the major traffic spots affected.

Kobashikawa said, "We want to assure the public that we will investigate this matter and take the necessary steps to make sure it doesn't happen again."

He said HECO apologizes to its customers about the outage.

"Of all the days and times, during the Wahine volleyball game," he lamented. "I bet that's going to be remembered for a long time."

People who want to file a claim because of losses suffered by the outage can contact HECO's claims department at 543-4624, Kobashikawa said.

Hawaiian Electric Co.

E-mail to City Desk


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