RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
A police officer directed traffic at the intersection of Kuliouou Road and Kalanianaole Highway in Hawaii Kai yesterday after traffic signals went out due to power failures across the island. Hawaiian Electric Co. estimated that 37,000 customers lost electricity.
OUT OF POWER
>> 37,000 customers lose electricity for four hours partly because of the hot weather
>> Everyone from dentists to big-box stores is affected in areas of south Oahu
A massive power failure that hit scattered communities from Waimanalo to Ewa Beach disrupted thousands of lives and businesses on a hot June afternoon yesterday.
Hawaiian Electric Co. estimates 13 percent of its customers -- about 37,000 accounts -- lost power for as long as four hours when three generating units suddenly went off-line.
Spokesman Jose Dizon said the private Kalaeloa Partners generator at Campbell Industrial Park went down at about noon. Then just after 2 p.m., the Waiau Nos. 9 and 10 generating units went down, forcing the company to "manually shed" customers.
Four other generating units were already off-line because of scheduled maintenance, meaning seven of the 16 units on Oahu were out of service.
Dizon said the generators went out just as demand hit its peak, in part because of the hot weather.
The blackout affected customers in Hawaii Kai, Kahala, Manoa, Iwilei, Mapunapuna, Waipahu, Pearl City, Kunia, Ewa Beach and Makakilo, Dizon said.
Police directed cars at intersections with traffic lights that were not operating, and restaurants and supermarkets scrambled to find ice and refrigerated trucks to prevent food from spoiling.
Hawaii Kai dentist Nelson Hatanaka had just given a patient an anesthetizing shot and was about to start drilling on a cavity when the power went out.
Since she had already gotten the shot, the woman wanted to get it over with, he said, and waited for about an hour in the chair before deciding to go home.
The blackout affected businesses of all sizes, from big-box stores like Costco in Iwilei and Hawaii Kai to small family operations.
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Yesterday's power failure caused traffic jams in some Oahu communities, including at Middle Street, where a police officer directed makai-bound traffic after the traffic signals went out.
At Hana Sushi in the Hawaii Kai Shopping Center, Myung Yoo bought ice to keep his fish fresh and tried to stay open until the power returned.
"We can make sushi, but we are running out of rice," he said.
Costco ran its cash registers on battery power, and workers helped customers find items.
At the Shack restaurant and bar in Hawaii Kai last night, manager Brendan Burchfiel said he had resigned himself to losing up to $15,000 in business and was getting ready to send everyone home when the power came back on.
"It's a party," Burchfiel said. "It went from a blackout party to a we-love-electricity party.
"Everyone in Hawaii Kai is here," he said, as residents who did not have power to cook went out to dinner last night.
The three units that went out yesterday generate about 200 megawatts of electricity, Dizon said. A megawatt is 1 million watts -- enough electricity to power about 500 homes.
When the generating units went out, the systems automatically dropped customers in Iwilei and Mapunapuna to make up for the loss. Then HECO engineers began shutting down other customers to provide a cushion should another generator go down, Dizon explained.
The shutdown was necessary to prevent a total blackout on Oahu, which could happen if the electrical system is overloaded, he said.
HECO began restarting its Waiau units at about 4 p.m. and was able to gradually restore power to all of its customers by 6:09 p.m., Dizon said.
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
The Jamba Juice outlet in Hawaii Kai Towne Center posted a sign yesterday explaining its temporary closure.
Efforts were continuing to restore the Kalaeloa generator.
HECO is looking into why its two generators went down and what can be done to prevent future outages, Dizon said.
"We want to thank our customers for their understanding and apologize for the inconvenience."
The last major power failure on Oahu was on Dec. 19, 2002, when 30,000 to 40,000 customers lost electricity when the 180-megawatt AES Hawaii Inc. generator went down, followed by the loss of the 46-megawatt HPOWER generator and an 86-megawatt generator at HECO's Kahe plant.
During that outage, Kaiser Medical Center, Wahiawa Medical Center and Castle Medical Center lost power and had to go to emergency generators, prompting HECO to change the way it shuts down electricity when the system is in danger of being overloaded.
HECO customers can file claims
Businesses and homeowners affected by yesterday's power failure have 30 days to file a claim with Hawaiian Electric Co.
HECO spokesman Jose Dizon said the claims will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
For more information or to request a claim form, call HECO's claims line at 543-4624.