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Hawaiian Electric urges preparation for hurricane season

Year-round work to strengthen grid resilience will help blunt storm impacts

Release Date: 6/1/2021

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HONOLULU, June 1, 2021 - The 2021 Central Pacific hurricane season starts today and Hawaiian Electric is advising customers, both residential and commercial, to be prepared and have emergency plans in place.

Hawaiian Electric crews work year-round to harden the company’s five island grids so they are better able to withstand the effects of powerful storms. A major focus of Hawaiian Electric’s efforts to build resilience involves reinforcing poles, lines, and other equipment. The utility also spent $18 million in 2020 to clear trees and vegetation from around power lines and equipment, resulting in fewer and briefer outages during storms.

Forecasters are predicting two to five tropical cyclones for the Central Pacific in 2021, an estimate that includes tropical depressions, named storms and hurricanes. That compares to a normal season with a range of four or five tropical cyclones, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Hurricane season runs through Nov. 30.

Hawaiian Electric’s work to boost resilience includes equipment upgrades as well as longer-term planning efforts that will benefit customers well into the future. Here are some examples of the company’s ongoing resilience work:

  • Oahu:
    • Replaced about five miles of overhead line on Oahu’s North Shore along Kamehameha Highway near Hauula Beach Park to Laie Beach Park, and along Kamehameha near Hukilau Beach Park to Malaekahana State Recreation Area. The lines needed replacing due to coastal corrosion.
    • Convened five virtual workshops of the Koolaupoko Energy Working Group, engaging key community leaders to advance energy-related action items that will increase resilience along the Windward side from Waimanalo to Kualoa.
    • Started work with national experts to identify areas on Oahu that are optimal for developing microgrids to achieve a more resilient electric grid as part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s inaugural Energy Transitions Initiative Partnership Project.
  • Maui and Molokai:
    • Installed heavier, insulated conductors in tree-dense areas to help prevent vegetation-related outages in areas prone to trees and branches falling during high winds and damaging electrical equipment.
  • Lanai:
    • Upgraded the way power is distributed in Lanai City to improve reliability, including the conversion of a 4-kilovolt power line to 12 kilovolts. This standardized voltage across the island for a more efficient distribution of energy.
  • Hawaii Island:
    • Upgraded and relocated a 10-mile sub-transmission line in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park area. The work was part of a collaboration to close a 22-mile gap in the island’s fiber optic loop and ensure a stable communications network for internet and wireless customers, including first responders and schools.

To prepare for the hurricane season customers can refer to the company’s Handbook for Emergency Preparedness. The handbook and a keiki-friendly booklet featuring Maka the Super Safety Hero are available at hawaiianelectric.com/prepare. Printed copies of the handbook are available for pickup at public libraries across our service territory and City Mill stores on Oahu. You may also call Hawaiian Electric at (808) 543-7511 for copies of the publications.

Residents should develop their own emergency plans and consider these tips:

  • Gather emergency supplies, such as a battery-powered radio, flashlights, lanterns and batteries. Be prepared to monitor communications over emergency broadcast radio stations.
  • Store enough water, non-perishable food, medicine and personal hygiene supplies for your family members and pets to last at least 14 days.
  • Turn off and unplug all unnecessary electric appliances and equipment during a storm or a power outage. When power comes back and is stable, plug in the equipment one at a time.
  • Shut off your electricity at the main breaker or switch if you need to evacuate.
  • Consider having a backup generator if you are dependent on an electrically powered life support system. Or, make plans to go to an alternate location where electricity will be available. Be prepared to take your medical equipment and medications with you.
  • If your business or residence is equipped with a backup generator, learn how to properly operate the device to avoid causing damage or injury.
  • Prepare a list of emergency contacts including phone numbers for insurance agents, vendors, physicians, or any other important individuals.
  • If you see a downed power line, assume it is energized and dangerous. Stay away from downed power lines – at least 30 feet or more (at least two car lengths).
  • For updates and alerts, follow Hawaiian Electric on Twitter or via our free mobile app (available on Apple App and Google Play stores).