Weathering a wild week easier with preparation and plenty of patience
Wind, rain and power losses have pestered the islands for a week.
Lingering thunderstorms and unusually fierce winds battering the islands through last week tested residents' patience, as well as the ability of Hawaii's electric companies to deal with downed lines and utility poles and the resulting losses of power to customers. The problems suggest this is a good time for a public review of current practices and new ideas for limiting damage from future storms.
Maui and Oahu's Leeward and North Shore districts seem to have borne the brunt of damage, but no neighborhood was completely spared felled trees, broken branches, "buckaloose" Christmas decorations and other debris the stormy weather left in its wake.
As people clean up their yards and fix their dwellings, all can be thankful that there was no loss of life and few serious injuries. As the rains go away, however, residents should be prepared for their coming another day.
County and state governments were ready as forecasts predicted the high winds and rain, but besides issuing warnings and being observant, officials could do little else as the storm bore down on the islands. Residents have to take it upon themselves to do what's necessary to assure their safety, secure their homes and check food, water, medicine and other supplies.
The winds were strong but not as intense as what can be expected in hurricanes and tropical storms. So it was somewhat of a surprise that 36 Hawaiian Electric Co. utility poles on Oahu were knocked down, pulling power lines with them and leaving as many as 45,000 HECO customers in the dark, some for several days.
There's no sure way to know if the poles that came down were weak before the storm, but it behooves HECO to take a look at them in an attempt to determine if the breaks could have been prevented and to assure customers that the company does its best to avoid such problems.
In addition, HECO should re-open discussions about installing underground wiring in communities it believes most vulnerable to severe weather conditions. It might be a costly undertaking, perhaps too expensive for customers to bear. Nonetheless, the company would do well to explain the hard numbers, weighing the benefits and the expense of emergency repairs and the economic impact on businesses and residents.
Most people appeared to take the storm in stride, accepting the inconvenience of blocked roads, closed schools and canceled events. Most acknowledged that it wasn't the worst Hawaii has experienced and that it was a chance to practice for the big one.