Zero Power

SUBHEAD: There was an island wide electric blackout on Kauai after KIUC’s second largest generator broke down.

By Chris D'Angelo on 9 May 2014 for the Garden Island -

Image above: A KPD officer conducts traffic in Waipouli at the Kauai Village Plaza after the traffic lights failed on the Kuhio Highway. From the original article. Photo by Lisa Ann Capozzi.

[IB Publisher's note: Yesterday morning a little after 10:00am I got a call from a friend who asked me if my electricity was on. It was but it was not supplied by the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC). Just a little over a week earlier we had KIUC come a take the meter away and remove their cable from our house. We had gone solar PV. My friend was calling my land line with his cell phone because his land line (in the same town of Hanapepe) was not working. His KIUC power was down and he couldn't get any radio stations. On solar power my land line was working and when I turned on my radio out came KKCR. There was no indication at my house that the grid was down. In fact in the area within sight and hearing there was no change in the rhythm of life. Sweet!]

Shortly before 10 a.m. Thursday, power across the Garden Isle suddenly died.

It was the first islandwide power outage since March 2012 and affected all of Kauai Island Utility Cooperative’s 30,000 customers.

“It’s a pretty unusual event,” said KIUC spokesman Jim Kelly.

Lisa Hicks was teaching her kindergarteners at Kilauea School when the power shut off.

“The kids were bummed when the pencil sharpener stopped working,” she said.

“When the power goes out, we always worry there was an accident. But the iPad still worked and that’s all the kids cared about.”

The two-hour outage occurred when the island’s second largest generator shut down.

“That put the load on all the existing generators,” Kelly said. “All the circuit breakers tripped and everything went out.”

The John Brown Gas Turbine generator at the Port Allen Generating Station, which generates 22 megawatts of electricity, went offline at 9:53 a.m. KIUC later confirmed that the cause was a failed fuel valve.

Along Kuhio Highway in Lihue, business owners could be seen walking out of their storefronts to investigate, while motorists cautiously proceeded past dark street lights. Several local businesses required patrons to pay with cash until credit card machines were brought back online.

Shawn Potter was working at the Healthy Nut Market and Café at Kilauea Crossing.

“It really makes us take stock on how dependent we are on technology,” he said.

Potter’s co-worker Jordan Brown used the lights-out time to straighten up the shop and socialize with co-workers.

“It was short,” Brown said. “There wasn’t much we could do.”

By 11:30 a.m., 85 percent of the island was back up. Power was fully restored at 11:51 a.m., according to KIUC.

County spokeswoman Sarah Blane said Kauai Police Department officers responded to some of the island’s busier intersections to assist with traffic control.

“Luckily, there were no major traffic crashes or incidents,” she said.

The Kauai Fire Department responded to a report of a man who was trapped in an elevator when the power cut out at Marriott’s Kauai Lagoons – Kalanipuu. However, maintenance crews were able to open the elevator and the man escaped without injury, according to Blane.

A KFD training exercise at Ahukini State Recreational Pier continued as scheduled.

County spokeswoman Mary Daubert said the Department of Water’s SCADA system, which monitors water levels at water tanks around the island, went down briefly.

“The system is almost entirely back up, and we anticipate it to be fully operational sometime tomorrow,” she wrote Thursday afternoon. “This does not affect water service.”

Additionally, the Agency on Elderly Affairs was having its annual Outstanding Older Americans Recognition Ceremony at the Kauai Beach Resort. The power went out about 15 minutes after the event started, resulting in almost the entire ceremony being held without lights, PA system and air conditioning.

“Fortunately, there’s a wall of plate glass where the event was held so there was enough light for the event to continue,” Daubert wrote. “The power came back on at about 11:15 a.m. just in time for lunch.”

Despite not having power, all Kauai schools remained open Thursday. By 11:05 a.m., Kalaheo, Koloa and King Kaumualii were the only schools left without power, according to emails sent out by Complex Area Superintendent Bill Arakaki.

Caroline Sluyter, a spokeswoman for the Department of Transportation, said flights at the Lihue Airport were not impacted as the airport had backup generator power.

Local hospitals reported only brief interruptions.

“We were slightly impacted only to the degree that it did trigger our backup generation,” said Scott McFarland, CEO of the Kauai Hawaii Health System, which includes Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital and Kauai Veterans Memorial Hospital.

The hospitals’ surgery teams and intensive care unit were not effected.

“We were able to be up in three seconds,” McFarland said. “The good news is hospitals practice for situations like this.”

Jonell Kaohelaulii, marketing director at Kukui Grove Center in Lihue, said the mall was without power for about an hour.

“Business as usual once power resumed,” she wrote in an email.

Maito Cuenta was loading up 10 pallets of beer for his usual delivery route when the power went out. He kept working using a flashlight.

“I was in the refrigerated area of the warehouse,” he said. “After a half an hour it got hot, but not drastically.”

Not wanting to hold up the mail, U.S. Postal worker Nick Nicholson continued his daily sorting.

“The emergency lights came on and there are a few windows in the area. So as long as I could see the labels, I kept working,” he said.

Aquila Ecolono and her 4-month-old child were at home in Kilauea when the movie they were watching went blank.

“I sat and waited and then checked with the neighbors,” she said. “I was starting to worry about what was in the freezer.”

Tom Pickett, owner of Kilauea Bakery said the store’s generator kept business running.

“The show must go on,” he said. “The generator kept the ovens running, the register functioning and most importantly the stereo.”

The last areas restored with power Thursday were parts of Lawai, Koloa, Kalaheo, Kaumakani, Koloa and Kapaia. Repairs on the generator are being made and the cause of the fuel valve failure is being assessed, according to KIUC.

The Port Allen facility generates 60 percent of Kauai’s power, while 40 percent comes from the plant in Kapaia.


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