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Big Island Woman Recounts Days Without Power After Kona Low Storm

By Tiffany DeMasters
December 10, 2021, 4:00 PM HST
* Updated December 10, 5:31 PM
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Ambronette Rivera said she cried “amen” when power was restored to her home in the Mountain View area after five days in the dark.

The Kona Low storm that hit the Big Island earlier this week brought with it torrential rain and damaging winds resulting in fallen trees and debris on power lines. At one point, Hawaiian Electric reported 2,200 customers were without power.

As of 2 p.m. today, crews were working in Kona and in upper and lower Puna. Full restoration is expected by noon Saturday, Dec. 11. This does not include customers who have damage on their property that would need to be repaired before crews can restore electricity.

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Rivera’s power went out on Sunday, Dec. 5, at around noon. She said the weather was still kind of nice with low winds and drizzling.

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“It got bad in the early evening as the winds were picking up,” Rivera said. “It was kind of strange that our power went out before the storm came in.”

For the most part, Rivera said, it’s been like she and her husband have been camping and using a generator nearly all week. The biggest challenge, however, was not being able to plug in her nebulizer for breathing treatments.

Rivera, who suffers from asthma, recently recovered from COVID-19. She said the virus was hard on her lungs and she was using her breathing machine several times a day prior to the stormʻs arrival.

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When the electricity went out, Rivera said her machine was damaged after she tried plugging it into the generator. Luckily she had another machine, but it also froze.

Rivera said her husband ended up buying a car battery and an inverter to allow her to plug a nebulizer in safely.

Rivera told Big Island Now she’d been calling Hawaiian Electric since Sunday to report her outage. She said she would wait up to an hour before talking to someone in a call center about her power.

Trees on the power lines by her home were cleared Wednesday. After putting in four tickets for repair and reaching out to Hawaiian Electric through Facebook, Rivera said she got a callback on Thursday, addressing her outage.

Rivera said she had to go to Facebook Messenger to get an immediate response from the power company. She wished there was a little more direct communication with Hawaiian Electric.

“We were going into Aloha Friday and we had no electric,” Rivera told Big Island Now. “There was no communication from Hawaiian Electric to the customers.”

Hawaiian Electric is still conducting damage assessments in the areas impacted by the outage. According to a company spokesperson, the Trouble Line is the only option for customers who donʻt use social media.

“We know it’s been frustrating for customers to reach us by phone, and we sincerely apologize,” the spokesperson stated. “Agents on the neighbor islands and mainland have been helping us answer the extremely high volume of calls. We will be reviewing the phone and call systems following this event to find ways to improve the customer experience.”

At 6:30 a.m. on Friday, Rivera said she prayed for the electricity to be restored. Power was flipped on 30 minutes later.

“I yelled amen and neighbors cheered,” Rivera said. “It was a good morning. The first thing I did was vacuum and made a big pot of rice.”

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a reporter for Big Island Now. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat.
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