Update: 6,600 still without power in Puna; Water restored to Hawaiian Shores

Water restored to Hawaiian Shores, thousands still without power in Puna (6 a.m.)

PUNA, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - HELCO officials Wednesday afternoon confirmed there are still 6,600 customers without power. Electrical line crews from all over the state are working on repairs -- including West Hawaii, Oahu and Maui. Officials say contract crews have also been hired to dig holes for new utility poles and tree trimmers to clear fallen trees.

The following is from a HELCO news release:

Electric service to approximately 1,500 customers was restored yesterday (Tuesday) as crews continue to make progress on restoring power in the Puna District. Power has been restored in Hamakua, Ainaloa, Orchidland Estates, and portions of Upper Puna, Hawaiian Beaches and Hawaiian Paradise Park. Approximately 200 workers have mobilized to work in the field on restoring power, including 22 electrical line crews, 14 tree trimming crews, and 25 construction crews contracted to dig holes for utility poles. An additional 40 crew members will be arriving, including crews from Maui Electric, Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative, and contracted companies.

With the additional workforce, crews have identified some previously unreported outages. In addition, more customers have called in outage reports. Currently, an estimated 6,600 customers are without power. This estimate includes the recently reported outages.

Today, electrical line crews expect to make progress in the following areas: Leilani Estates, Hawaiian Beaches, Hawaiian Paradise Park, and portions of Upper Puna. Crews also hope to make progress along the highway from Pahoa to Kalapana.

In addition, contracted tree trimming and construction crews are working to clear fallen trees, debris, and dig utility pole holes in Nanawale Estates, Hawaiian Paradise Park, and other areas throughout the Puna District. This work is needed to prepare the area for electrical line crews to set new poles and repair fallen power lines and other damaged equipment. Restoration progress may be impacted by access to due storm debris, fallen trees, or other conditions in the field. 

There are pockets throughout the Puna district where the damage is so severe that customers should be prepared for an extended outage. Although crews are making progress and restoration in many areas may be much faster, preliminary estimates indicate it could take up to three weeks to restore power to the areas with the most significant damage, and in some cases even longer. These estimates are still preliminary and actual restoration times for each location will depend on the extent of the damage.

“With all of the additional help we’ve received, our crews are making steady progress and also identifying new problems we need to address. Our customers are also helping by serving as our eyes on the ground. We thank them for their patience and understanding. This really is a collective effort by our entire community to recover from this storm,” said Darren Pai, Hawai‘i Electric Light spokesman.

Water is once again flowing in the Hawaiian Shores neighborhood. Residents there have been without running water since Iselle slammed the Puna district last week Thursday.

County officials say a major factor in the progress crews are making is the fact all subdivisions now have access to highways and main roadway, including Wood Valley in Pahala where part of a bridge collapsed. However, in some hard hit areas, internal subdivision streets may still be blocked.

Kenoi says in addition to the National Guard, County Parks and Public Works crews, state highways and forestry crews and fire crews from Pohakuloa -- the County also hired contractors to assist with tree cutting and removal to expedite clean-up efforts.

Hawai'i County operated Assistance Centers open again Wednesday from noon to 4 p.m. at Community Centers in Hawaiian Shores, Leilani Estates and Nanawale, as well as the Kalani Retreat Center. The centers will offer water, ice, and other supplies while they last. Officials are asking people to bring their own containers for ice and water, as bags or bottles may not be available. They're asking those who are able to get to a store on their own to please leave emergency supplies for those who cannot.

Over 35 tons of ice and more than 40,000 bottles of water has been distributed. Another 32 tons of ice is being flown in by the National Guard from O'ahu for distribution Wednesday.

The Pahoa Pool is open for showers and phone charging until midnight and the pool will reopen for swimming during regular hours.

The Red Cross emergency shelter at the Pahoa Community Center is providing meals and a cot to sleep on for anyone displaced by the storm. Folks will also be able to take a shower and charge their phones at any time of the day, however no pets are allowed.

On Wednesday, Red Cross volunteers will be distributing meals as well as batteries, water, work gloves, trash bags, and tarps at Pahoa Community Center parking lot from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. and at the Puna Covenant Church in Kea'au from 10 a.m. - 1 p.m.

Mayor Kenoi says damage assessments are ongoing and being conducted by the County Office of Housing and Community Development and the Hawai‘i National Guard.

The Hawai‘i State Emergency Management Agency and the County of Hawai‘i will set up Disaster Assistance and Recovery Centers (DARCs) starting on Thursday to provide information and services to people whose property was damaged by the storm.

Officials say state and county agencies, along with not-for-profit, non-governmental agencies, will be there to provide information on available services. According to Kenoi, the DARCs will help HI-EMA and Hawaii County evaluate whether the criteria for a federal disaster declaration has been met.

The schedule and location for the Disaster Assistance and Recovery Centers is: Thursday, August 14 and Friday, August 15 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Pahoa Community Center and Saturday, August 16 and Sunday, August 17 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Mountain View Gym.

As a reminder, the following County parks are still closed due to storm damage: Hilo Trap & Skeet Range, Isaac Hale Beach Park, Ahalanui Park, and Kolekole Beach Park. All other County parks are open, but there may still be storm debris in the area.

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