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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, December 7, 2007

Traffic, power snarled after Hawaii storm

Photo galleryPhoto gallery: Nanakuli after the storm
StoryChat: Comment on this story

By Will Hoover and Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Staff Writers

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

The storm left a large tree uprooted along Farrington Highway near Lualualei Homestead Road. Meanwhile, work on damaged power lines along the highway backed up traffic. See more photos.

JEFF WIDENER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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SCHOOL CLOSINGS

Five public schools are expected to be closed to all students, faculty and staff today because of storm-related problems, education officials said yesterday evening. Any additional closings will be announced on the state Department of Education Web site, http://doe.k12.hi.us and through media outlets as the information becomes available.

As of 4:25 p.m. yesterday, these schools were expected to be closed:

Leeward O'ahu

  • Ka Waihona Elementary & Intermediate, Public Charter School

    Central O'ahu

  • Hale Kula Elementary

  • Solomon Elementary

    Both closings are because of fallen trees, blocked roadways and lack of electricity.

    Maui

  • Lahainaluna High (disruption of water service)

  • Lana'i High and Elementary (because of flooding)

    HECO SAYS

    Claims for food spoilage or property damage: Those who believe they incurred food spoilage or property damage from the power outage should call the company for information about how to file a claim. "They will all be handled on a case-by-case basis," said HECO spokes-man Darren Pai. Call 543-4624.

    Protect your electronics: For those who still have no power, unplug sensitive electronic equipment to avoid damage in case of a surge when power is restored. Turn off power to electric water heaters at the circuit breaker to reduce the initial demand for power and reduce the risk of blowing fuses on the circuit when it is restored.

    Reporting outages: Isolated areas may still be experiencing "pocket outages." If you don't live in Nanakuli, Ma'ili, Waimea or Wahiawa and do not have electricity, call HECO to make sure the company is aware of the problem. Call 548-7961.

    Source: Hawaiian Electric Co.

    COURT CLOSED

    As a result of the power outage, traffic and misdemeanor trials scheduled to be heard today at Wai'anae District Court will be rescheduled for another date. Attorneys, defendants and witnesses should call the court at 954-8575 or the 'Ewa District Court at 534-6900 to obtain new court dates.

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    A day after high winds toppled power lines from Nanakuli to Wai'anae, cut off power along the entire Wai'anae Coast and temporarily shut down the only road in and out of the area, patience was beginning to run out among many who had stoically endured their stranding just 24 hours earlier.

    While many coastal residents wrote off Wednesday as a "stay-home day," Honolulu-bound motorists yesterday were stunned by the stop-and-go pace and stream of bumper-to-bumper traffic that stretched from Makaha to Nanakuli along Farrington Highway.

    Pat Gomes left her Makaha Towers apartment at 7:15 a.m. for a 9 a.m. doctor's appointment at Hawai'i Medical Center West in Waipahu a 19-mile journey that normally takes less than an hour.

    Yesterday, the trip lasted four hours. When Gomes arrived at the hospital at nearly 11:30 a.m., her doctor was busy delivering a baby, and Gomes had to reschedule.

    "It was all a waste of time," said Gomes, as she inched her way through Nanakuli yesterday afternoon on her way back to Makaha. "I was going in for my annual physical. I made the appointment a year ago.

    "It's just a nightmare out here. I would hate to think if we ever had a major disaster. We'd never get out."

    About that same time, Bryson Ka'aihue, 21, was crawling in the opposite direction on his way to work in Waipahu.

    "If I'm lucky, the traffic gets up to 5 miles an hour," said Ka'aihue, who was at least able to smile through his frustration of more than two hours behind the wheel to move 10 miles.

    Thousands of coast residents endured the same headache yesterday, but that wasn't the only lingering problem in the area of O'ahu hardest hit by Wednesday's early morning storm.

    Although power had been restored to most of Makaha and Wai'anae, Ma'ili and Nanakuli remained off the grid and hundreds of homes and businesses were without electricity.

    As of 10 p.m. yesterday, about 450 homes in the Nanakuli-Ma'ili area and about 100 homes on the North Shore were still without power, HECO spokeswoman Jan Loose said. HECO crews would work throughout the night on the Leeward Coast but clear the roads for the morning commute period, she said.

    Virtually all public schools on the coast were closed yesterday, as was the Nanakuli post office and a number of businesses.

    The Department of Education said that five of the state's public schools will be closed today: Ka Waihona Elementary & Intermediate in Wai'anae, Hale Kula and Solomon elementaries in Wahiawa, Lahainaluna High and Lana'i High. Twenty-seven public schools were closed yesterday. For updates, check www.doe.k12.hi.us/.

    The National Weather Service said moderate to locally heavy rain will continue for the next few days. Forecaster Maureen Ballard said conditions could begin clearing by Sunday.

    JAMMED UP

    The bottleneck coming and going on Farrington Highway was in Nanakuli, which was clobbered during the early morning hours Wednesday by fierce sea winds that snapped utility poles between Helelua Street and Auyong Homestead Road.

    Working around the clock, a virtual army of HECO crews, along with private contractor workers, had managed to erect 17 new utility poles in Nanakuli, most in spots at which poles also came down during a storm in March 2006.

    But power lines were still down, and heavy equipment consumed the two mountain-side lanes of Farrington in Nanakuli for several blocks leaving a single lane of road in each direction for traffic to funnel into from both directions.

    With power lines still blocking all entrances to Nanakuli's Pacific Shopping Mall, stores there remained closed for the second day in a row with the exception of the community's largest market, Sack 'N Save, which remained open for those in need of basic necessities, said store manager Berta Kamaunu.

    "We're selling water, soda, canned goods, batteries, we still have ice things people need for their survival during this difficult time," said Kamaunu, who said the store went through the same exercise last year when the power poles came down.

    Like most folks up and down the coast, Kamaunu wondered if the new, larger poles HECO erected will be able to withstand another storm as intense as Wednesday's.

    "Or are we going to be facing this same predicament again?" she asked.

    NORTH SHORE, TOO

    On the North Shore, another hard-hit area, businesses were open yesterday but pockets of power outages still plagued Sunset Beach and Pupukea, including the Foodland Super Market.

    While most of the debris along the North Shore had been cleared yesterday, there were still signs of storm damage, with leaning utility poles in La'ie and at Turtle Bay. Utility wires were on the ground near Whitmore Village and trees seemed to be supporting the wires where poles were missing or snapped at the top.

    From Sunset Beach to Laniakea, warning signs were posted and yellow tape prevented people from getting too close to the water. "No Swimming" signs were up at Sunset Beach and Waimea Bay Beach Park.

    But people from Sunset to Pupukea were more concerned about preserving their food as they faced a second day without power.

    "We lost three refrigerators worth of food," said Deidre Erickson, who lives high above Pupukea and was shopping at Pioneer Ace Hardware store in Hale'iwa.

    "It was the worst wind I ever experienced," she said of the storm. "We had big glass wrought-iron tables heavy blown off the lanai into the ravine. I'm really disheartened."

    Erickson said all of her screens were blown into the ravine and three huge ironwood trees were toppled, along with a stand of cluster bamboo. A neighbor helped saw up the pieces so she could get rid of them, she said.

    At the hardware store, she was stocking up on batteries to make it through the day, and pricing generators.

    Doug Ackerman, who lives at Rocky Point, was buying ice from Foodland around 11 a.m. to pack into his refrigerator in hopes of salvaging his food. It was his second trip of the day because the store had no ice in the morning. Ackerman said all of his neighbors were also without electricity.

    The market was running on a generator and allowing only a few people at a time to enter. Inside, the shelves were well stocked, but perishables were behind black plastic curtains, frozen-food doors were taped shut and the meat counter was closed.

    "We go out (lose power) enough out here in the North Shore that they should have a big generator," Ackerman said.

    Reach Will Hoover at whoover@honoluluadvertiser.com and Eloise Aguiar at eaguiar@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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