Company prepared to respond if ash causes power interruptions

Another damaged pole due to seismic activity near Leilani Estates

Release Date: 5/15/2018

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Another damaged pole due to lava

HILO, May 15, 2018 - Extended power interruptions are possible due to ash falling on insulators and utility equipment from Halemaumau.

"A combination of a light dusting of ash and moisture on utility insulators could result in electrical short circuits, which could cause power interruptions," warned Rhea Lee-Moku, spokesperson for Hawaii Electric Light. "If this occurs, we are prepared to respond once it is safe for employees to work in the impacted area. While we have equipment that can wash off ash from utility equipment, this is the first experience we will have with widespread volcanic ash."

Extended power interruptions may occur if the ash fallout covers a large area or is very heavy and damages utility equipment. Hawaii Electric Light recommends customers who experience a power interruption to:

  • Unplug sensitive electronic equipment and other electric appliances.
  • Keep the doors to your refrigerator and freezer closed as much as possible. Discard any perishable food that has been above 41 degrees F for over two hours. Food can stay cold in the refrigerator for up to four to six hours if the door is kept closed and for about one to three days in the freezer, depending on how full the freezer is.
  • If you are dependent on life support, make prior arrangements with a hospital or emergency facility.

One pole cracked and fell on Pohoiki Road Monday, underscoring the need for continued caution around electric equipment even in areas where eruption activity has subsided. The damaged pole was in an area that was already de-energized due to other seismic activity.

A total of about 400 customers in Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens are without power. No additional outages have been caused by new fissures that opened in the last 24 hours.

Steam, seismic activity and cracking pavement can affect the stability of poles and electrical equipment. Last week, line crews replaced a pole that fell on Leilani Avenue that may have been toppled by shifting ground, even though it was some distance from an active fissure.

Hawaii Electric Light continues to warn residents to assume that all downed lines and equipment are energized and dangerous. Stay at least three cars lengths away from downed lines and use caution around all poles and overhead lines.

Hawaii Electric Light personnel started working in Leilani Estates today to secure equipment so that it is safe and to reduce the potential for future damage - replacing an anchor to stabilize a pole, for example. While residents will see workers in the area, workers will not make repairs or re-energize any circuits while volcanic activity continues.

With the shutdown of the Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV) plant, Hawaii Electric Light still has sufficient power generation available to meet the island's needs. PGV is an independent power producer that sells electricity to Hawaii Electric Light.

Check Hawaii Electric Light's website (www.hawaiielectriclight.com), Twitter (@HIElectricLight), and Facebook (HawaiianElectric) accounts for updates.