“Did all of Hilo lose electricity or just my street?”
Annette L. Kailiawa asked that question shortly after 1 a.m. Friday, May 27, on Facebook.
“I was wondering the same thing,” Keola K. Mahi wrote shortly after 2:30 a.m. in a reply to Kailiawa’s post.
“Aiyah … I looking up Kukuau and all dark,” Kailiawa replied at 3:17 a.m.
They weren’t the only ones asking what happened when an early morning power outage Friday left a good portion of the Hilo area literally in the dark for several hours.
“Curious to know what was the cause for the power outage here in lower Kaumana!?! After living here for the past six years, I’ve never had no electricity,” Kealia BC Prince posted at 7:10 a.m. Friday on Facebook.
“I was wondering the same thing. I couldn’t find any info on the power outage last night. And it lasted for quite a while too!” Savanna Noa replied at 8:38 a.m. Friday to Prince’s post.
Prince said in response to a question from Big Island Now in reply to her original post that “luckily I run on my own alarm,” so it didn’t affect her work schedule.
“Freaked my kids out though! Woke up with all three littles in my room!” Prince said.
Twitter user Alyssa-Marie, who has the handle @satoaly, even asked Hawaiian Electric on Friday morning via the social media platform what happened.
“@HIElectricLight what caused power outage around 1:30 a.m. in Hilo this morning?” she tweeted at 6:19 a.m. Friday.
“The cause is under investigation,” said a reply from the Hawaiian Electric – Hawai’i Island Twitter account at 8:23 a.m. “Mahalo for your patience.”
According to Hawaiian Electric senior communications consultant Kristen Okinaka, the power outage began at 12:49 a.m. Friday. The outage affected 2,709 electric customers in the general vicinity of Komohana Street between Puainako Street and Waiānuenue Avenue, she told Big Island Now in an email Friday afternoon.
The outage lasted a little more than three hours, with power restored to all affected customers by 3:54 a.m. Friday. Okinaka said a rat caught in equipment was to blame.
The rat was caught in an electrical switchgear that houses circuit breakers that interrupt power when a fault or problem occurs, she said. When the rat contacted energized parts, it caused other protective devices to operate to minimize damage.
“Once crews identified the cause, the rat was removed and affected customers were transferred to alternate equipment to restore service,” Okinaka said.
Kailiawa, responding to a reply from Big Island Now on her Facebook post, said Hawaiian Electric’s troubleshooting line was very busy when she first called to inquire about the outage. She stayed on the phone for 10 minutes before hanging up.
“I called back around 2:45 a.m., and a very nice gentleman answered and said it would be fixed within the hour,” she wrote. “The lights did go back on at 3:30 a.m.”
Situations like what led to Friday’s early morning outage happen infrequently, Okinaka said, and Hawaiian Electric is investigating the incident.
“We’re investigating to determine how the rat was able to access the equipment and how to prevent it from happening again,” she said.
Kailiawa also said the outage did have an affect on her nightly routine. She and her husband, who uses a continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, machine, decided to stay awake during the duration of the outage.
“I woke up my husband, as he was already asleep with his machine on,” she said in reply to Big Island Now on her Facebook post. “We made the decision to stay awake, as at that time I had not called (Hawaiian Electric) as to how long the outage would last. It didn’t make sense to set up the generator, make all the connections to the machines for the electricity to come back on in less than three hours.”
Customers can visit the Hawaiian Electric website to get information about outages. Those on Twitter can also follow @HIElectricLight for outage information or view the utility’s #BigIslandOutage for updates.
To report a power outage on the Big Island, call 808-969-6666.