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HELCO Works to Restore Power After Eruption

September 3, 2019, 3:00 PM HST
* Updated September 4, 10:06 AM
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Media and Leilani residents documenting the historic 2018 Kilauea Eruption on May 24, 2018. PC: Crystal Richard.

More than 800 homes in East Hawai‘i lost power in the wake of Kīlauea volcano’s violent eruption that began on May 3, 2018, and stretched on for months.

Hawai‘i Electric Light Company (HELCO) has since worked to bring power back to the people.

“Customers who contacted us to request electric service have been reconnected or will be reconnected,” said HELCO spokeswoman Kristen Okinaka.

HELCO is currently working to reconnect 28 customers residing east of the Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV) facility. A few homes west of PGV remain inaccessible due to lava flow, Okinaka said.

Portions of Leilani Estates, Lanipuna Gardens, Kapoho and Vacationland suffered power disruptions due to the eruption. Okinaka said HELCO started developing plans to restore power to homes in those areas before the eruption subsided.

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“For safety reasons, we did not send our employees to work in areas that were under mandatory evacuation,” she said. “Once Hawai’i County Civil Defense lifted the mandatory evacuation for portions of Leilani Estates in September 2018, we began the restoration process and reconnected customers who requested electric service.

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“In general, the areas with minimal damage were restored first,” Okinaka continued. “Depending on the extent of the damage, some homes had power within days, while others took longer. Areas that remain under mandatory evacuation or are inundated by lava remain without service.”

After gaining access to damaged areas, HELCO must conduct assessments to determine the extent of the damage and the work needed to restore service to customers. Damaged poles, lines and equipment are then removed. HELCO then repairs or rebuilds the line before customers can be reconnected.

Almost all of the customers who requested service, and who can be reconnected safely, have been restored, Okinaka said. The remaining 28 customers located east of PGV that can be reconnected should be within the next two months, she added.

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As power restoration efforts remain ongoing, HELCO could not offer a total cost of the reconnection effort as of Sept. 3, 2019. Most costs, however, will be covered by the Public Utilities Commission.

There are no planned road closures due to power restoration efforts at this time, Okinaka said. If any become necessary, HELCO will inform the public

“Safety always is our top priority,” Okinaka said. “We encourage customers to have their home inspected by licensed electricians. We also encourage the community to stay away from downed power lines and to report downed lines to our Trouble Desk at (808) 969-6666.”

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