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Lava Topples Utility Poles in Leilani Estates

May 13, 2018, 3:11 PM HST
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Lava surrounds a Hawai’i Electric Light pole early Saturday morning. The pole is covered by the company’s pole protection apparatus. Stock photo: Hawai’i Electric Light.

Two poles damaged by a nearby lava flow fell on Kahukai Street in the Leilani Estates subdivision on Sunday, May 13, 2018, underscoring the need for continued caution around electric equipment even in areas where eruption activity has subsided.

The fallen poles caused an outage affecting an additional 30 customers in the area, which is under mandatory evacuation orders from Hawai‘i County Civil Defense authorities. Hawai‘i Electric Light personnel safely de-energized the fallen lines but no repair work is planned until the area is safe to enter.

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 this weekend.

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.

Hawai‘i 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.

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If it is safe to do so, Hawai‘i Electric Light personnel plan to enter Leilani Estates next week 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, they will not be making repairs or re-energizing any circuits while there continues to be volcanic activity.

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

Check Hawai‘i Electric Light’s website for updates.

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