Some Leeward Coast Residents Still Struggle Without Electricity

Wen Peng Weng
Wen Peng Weng
Alida Kumuhone
Alida Kumuhone

LEEWARD COAST (KHNL) -- The calm after the strongest storm of the year hits Hawaii. Downed utility poles, blackouts, and major traffic problems caused disruption for days. Hawaiian Electric Company crews have been working non-stop to restore power, as the state tries to get back to a normal routine.

While the threat of more rain hangs in the air, much of Hawaii is recovering this weekend. After a strong winter storm knocked out power to many parts of the state.

Most Oahu residents have their power back, but some are still without electricity. Days without power has darkened the mood for many in leeward communities.

Earlier Saturday, we saw crews continuing their work to restore power. Progress is being made, but some folks are at the breaking point, trying to survive without power for a fourth day.

Power lines toppled like dominoes after a powerful storm ripped through Hawaii Wednesday. It caused major traffic backup on the leeward coast.

"Big power blackout," said Alida Kumuhone, a Maili resident. "I mean, black. You couldn't see anything."

Four days later, there's still gridlock as crews continue working on utility poles.

And Kumuhone still can't see anything at night. This house still has no electricity.

"There's a lot of people who need help down here with this electrical going," she said. "I don't know how long (people can last).

This 7-Eeven just got power back Saturday morning, but a restaurant next door isn't as lucky.

"I don't know when the electricity will come back," said Wen Peng Weng, an employee at Ohana Meal Restaurant in Maili. "I don't know how long we can last."

All the food in the refrigerator spoiled. Even a back up system behind the restaurant failed.

A freezer stores back up food, things like chicken, fish and beef. But after days without power, they've all ended up in the dumpster.

Without power to serve customers, the restaurant stays empty. And their savings are drying up fast.

"The landlord called us to ask for the rent, but we don't have the money to pay," said Weng.

He does not know how if he can keep the restaurant going.

"That's another loss and I don't know who's going to catch that bill," said Kumuhone. "It's nature. What we can do?"

Another casualty in Mother Nature's path.

Saturday evening, about 340 customers were still without power. That's about half the number from Friday night, so HECO is making progress. Power should be back up for those remaining customers by Sunday evening, or Monday at the latest.

Replacement power poles on the leeward coast are about 32 percent thicker and stronger than the ones they replaced. HECO officials plan to get feedback from residents.

Underground wiring remains an option, but this method is more prone to flooding issues, especially since the leeward coast is so close to the beach. It is also more difficult and more time consuming to repair underground wiring.