Downed Utility Poles Cause Traffic Nightmare in Nanakuli

Jojan Barrett
Jojan Barrett
Orville Salibad
Orville Salibad
Inez Larson gives information to drivers on Farrington Highway
Inez Larson gives information to drivers on Farrington Highway

NANAKULI, Oahu (KHNL) It s was a nightmare for those traveling in and out of Nanakuli Sunday. More than a dozen utility poles came crashing down onto Farrington Highway, crushing cars and trapping drivers.

Because of the downed poles Farrington highway was shut down from Helelua to Lualualei. The road was closed in both directions and officials said it could stay that way  all night as HECO workers scramble to clean up the mess. Police were still on scene Sunday night directing traffic towards Nanakuli Avenue and Kolekole pass.

Meanwhile witnesses describe hurricane-like winds whipping through the area, knocking down poles, and paralyzing the Waianae coast. Witnesses say it looked like dominoes falling on top of each other.

"And i just started seeing the poles fall one by one, just dropping, was mean, was ugly." said one driver.

"Well the cars is trying to dodge the poles and it even flipped over and one just hit the car" said another witness.

Fire officials believe mother nature may be to blame. At about 1:30 PM strong winds toppled 13 power poles along Farrington Highway. Some of the poles fell on cars and trapped people inside vehicles.

"When we came here, we checked all the cars after the electric lines were de-energized, nobody got hurt, there was no injuries, two cars rooves completely smashed, one flipped on its side" said a captain with HFD.

All lanes of Farrington Highway were shut down. 22 cars were stranded between the road closures.

"It was kind of scary, we lived on this highway since the 1930s and we ve seen so many of these things happen, it s kind of like a hurricane" said Jojan Barrett.

Hawaiian Electric officials are on the scene were still trying to clear the roads as of Sunday evening and replace the poles that were knocked down. They were working to restore power to 700 Nanakuli residents.

"Our family has been through this so many times, we're prepared for it" said Barrett.

HECO officials said they had restored power to more than 450 homes, but about 225 families were still in the dark. And might not have electricity until sometime Monday.

This accident by any accounts would be called bizarre, but the reaction by many along the waianae coast is similar to other emergencies that have left some stranded and many frustrated.

For many in Nanakuli it was the wind that alerted them to the coming catasrophe.

"The wind had been howling outside my house all day, just whipping through my windows. I thought my jalousies would just bust, just shatter all of a sudden because the wind was so strong" said Inez Larson.

"The wind just came so I rolled up the window. A bigger gust of wind came and just knocked the pole down and it smashed the van."

And for those who witnessed pole after pole come crashing down their first instinct was one of survival.

We saw the poles coming down one at a time, like dominoes, and I told my wife to start running" said Orville Salibad.

But after seeing the damage strewn across Farrington Highway and the realization of what happened sank in, a sense of frustration for some began to rise along the wreckage. Once again traffic is slowed to a crawl and then diverted along the only regular road in and out of the Leeward coast.

"Seems like the people on the leeward coast we always get something. We're all trapped, there's no where else to go. We just have to wait til things die down so that we can get out of this place" said Edlene Ybarra.

And while the wait became hours for some, others tried to help their Nanakuli neighbors....and everyone else stuck along this stretch of road. Inez Larson was giving drivers information to what happened, and just as important what could be done to get out of this traffic nightmare.