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in the dark

9583718_BG1.jpgEarly Friday evening, as I drove over to a nearby school to drop off a couple of bags of recycling stuff, a few pretty wild bolts of lightning lit up in the sky. Lightning is pretty rare here in Hawaii. I could barely hear the thunder, so I assumed storm had to be far off in the distance.

The photo to the left was taken by Dave Weil of Wahiawa. I found this photo on the KHNL news website. (photo is linked to the source and an article about the power outage).

About 30 minutes after I returned home, a little after 7 pm, everything went black. At first, I figured it would only be out for a few minutes. After about 15 minutes, I thought that it was probably just my area of the island that was out. I watched a DVD on my computer to pass the time, still thinking that the power would be back on pretty soon. Two hours later, when my laptop was running out of juice, I decided to call the electric company to find out what was going on. I was surprised to learn that the entire island was in the dark. I found my radio and was grateful to find a few stations reporting what was going on.

HECO, the electric company, was saying something about four lines being tripped which caused the entire system to shut down. All the stations were saying to expect the power to be out throughout the night. The last time power went out island wide was October 15, 2006 when an earthquake hit the Big Island.

Because the entire island lost power, that meant that President-elect Obama, who is vacationing here with his family, also lost power. The mayor was in contact with his staff. Obama was safe at his Kailua rental. He was offered a generator but declined the help saying that they were planning to go to bed early and would be just fine.

I was much better prepared this time than I was two weeks earlier. I still had a big bag of ice and a half full bag of ice in the freezer. The very cool flashlight app on my new iPod touch came in handy helping me navigate in the dark. I listened to the radio for while, and then went to bed. I unplugged all of my electronic equipment but did leave all the light switches on hoping that in case the power come back on in the middle of the night, I would wake up since my refrigerated perishables were now in the freezer… and at 3:13 in the morning, the power came back. The lights woke me up as planned. My area of the island was one of the first to get electricity back. I was very grateful to have power again. I checked the Honolulu Advertiser for the latest news. Only a few areas were back up. I even got electricity back before Obama did! He got his back about 6 am. Some areas didn't get their power back until last night and a few people were out until this morning. A few areas even lost water for a while.

While the power was out island wide, traffic was crazy and there were many delays and cancellations at the airport. Some people ended up sleeping there overnight. Not fun. At least the weather was warm here. The scariest thing I read was that a Hawaiian Airline jet was struck by lightning. The jet landed safely but that must have been pretty scary!

Below are a few more photos of Oahu during the lightning storm and in the dark. The first two photos came from the Star Bulletin. I can't seem to find the first photo anymore to add the correct link. The second photo is linked to the article which is linked to more photos of the outage (where I found the second photo).

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I'm not sure how the Christmas tree lights stayed on during the blackout.
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The third and fourth photos are from the Honolulu Advertiser. Both are linked to the power outage article where I found these photos.

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*Edited to add...since moving to Hawaii, I have only lost power three times that I can remember for more than a few hours - twice in the past couple of weeks and the day of the Big Island earthquake two years ago. I can't remember now if I lost electricity where I was during Hurricane Iniki. The news of this outage probably would not have even made national news if Obama was not vacationing here. Our last storm which caused much more damage than this power outage never made national news.

They are still not sure what caused this island wide power outage. Originally, it was thought that it was due to a direct lightning strike, but no damage was found to any of the lines or equipment.

Comments (11)

sandrac:

Wow -- those are awesome photos! I read this morning in the New York Times a brief piece about Obama enduring the power blackouts in Hawaii. But you must be getting pretty tired of this -- it's one thing to lose electricity once in a while, but you seem to forced to deal with it way too often!

G: Good to know you were prepared but nevertheless, I'm sure it's nerve-racking! I think that Honolulu and Waikiki look soo much better in twilight with no lights.

I understand how the lack of information is sometimes worse than the actual event itself. The first time I was in Hawaii and heard the horns being tested for emergencies tsumanis, etc., I almost went out of my skin not knowing what was going on. Pearl Harbor was my first thought. Take care, M

Sandra, I guess since I have lost power for a substantial amount of time twice now in two weeks, it sounds like this happens all the time. Fortunately where I live, this has only been the third time I can remember losing power for more than two or three hours (knocking on wood here). It is very inconvenient when this happens and irritating since I am definitely addicted to electricity, but I don't have to worry about staying warm and this time was easier than the last since I slept through half of it. It was a little more difficult though managing in the dark. If it wasn't for Obama, the news of our blackout probably would not have hit national news. I edited my post to add info on how often I have lost electricity.

menehune, it definitely is getting tiresome. For much of the island, this was the first big outage that hit in a couple of years. No one seemed to care much about all of us that lost electricity the last time. It seems everyone needs to experience it to be bothered by it. I guess that is why there was little info out there for us last time. Information, especially since we are so used to getting it instantly is definitely the key. I am very grateful for my little radio and should go stock up on more batteries soon. I know what you mean about the sirens. It took me years to get used to them.

Kim:

Glad you're okay; I was thinking of you when the news broke here.

So any Obama sightings?

Yes, there was an article in the NC paper yesterday about the black-out but connected to the fact that the Obamas were there for it. Those are incredible photos! Lightning is both scary and very cool to look at.

Hope that is it for black-outs for you for a while!

I love that 2nd photo!

P.S.

I've experienced two extended black-outs (one from a hurricane and one from a horrible ice storm) and I'll take the hurricane any day because at least it wasn't cold! But both of these were week-long experiences, not fun!

But now I do keep a little stash of supplies...batteries, water, extra cat food (because I ran low on dog food during the ice storm and it was scary), and pantry items for food. Another thing that is good to have is one of those battery powered book lights. If I can read, it makes the time pass and I don't go stir crazy. I also keep a little grill and some charcoal. I remember boiling water on that grill just to wash my face and make coffee during that ice storm.

I read this blog from people who have like six months of supplies in their basement. I'm more prepared for a week. :)

Kim, I wish!! Unless you have military access to get on base to catch him before or after his daily workout or you have a golf membership, he has not been out in public much. The best sighting was last Friday when he took his girls to Sea Life Park and then to get Shave Ice in Hawaii Kai. If only I planned a trip to Sea Life Park last Friday.

Annie, two in two weeks is enough for me for a while. I was a little more prepared this time but not for more than a day. After experiencing the latest island wide black-out, it is apparent that HECO is not well prepared for a hurricane. I definitely need to stock up. My only problem is that I really don't have the space for any major stocking. The weather was quite mild during the last two power outages, which was nice.

Maryann, I wish I could take credit. I love that photo also!

Cool photos! I grew up on an island where power outages was a very common occurrence so I completely understand what you had to deal with. My main worry is always the perishable food. It's a good thing that you had those bags of ice.

I hope that you don't have to deal with power outages for a long time.

The worst part for me is always NO COFFEE! I can deal with the rest. Glad you are ok and back ON!

Maria, yeah...the downfalls of island life. With everyone complaining here they keep trying to remind us that we are on an island and so we are limited to what other energy we can tap into. Another great reason to invest in wind, solar, etc.

Palma, that was what I was most upset about when we lost power in 2006 for 12 hours after the earthquake. The power went out at 7 am before I had my coffee that morning.

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