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Electrical Utility and Emergency Management Upgrades Being Made Post-Hurricane Lane

NOAA National Weather Service

The state was spared from distructive force winds as Hurricane Lane passed by the islands.  But, public utility and city leaders aren’t waiting for another close call.


Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Alan Oshima, HECO president and CEO

Hawaiian Electric Company president and CEO, Alan Oshima, announced last week that there were no rolling blackouts or outages statewide as Hurricane Lane approached.


“Rolling outages are usually caused by generation shortfalls.  We have no generation shortfalls.  Despite not a whole lot of sun, we do have backup generation capacity to serve our peak needs.  We do have pocket outages where trees and branches hit our lines.  We will repair and restore in an appropriate manner.”


Oshima is more concerned about the Trans-Ko’olau Transmission lines on O’ahu that are susceptible to high-speed wind damage and become inaccessible by helicopter.  HECO spokesman, Peter Rosseg, says the Ko’olau lines, which deliver electricity from West O’ahu to all parts of the island, have been upgraded.


“We spent about a billion and a half dollars hardening our system.  Putting in metal poles where they had been wood structures, making sure that the equipment that holds the wires to the poles is top notch.  And we’ve replaced something before it goes bad instead of after it goes bad.”


But, Rosseg says there’s really no fail-safe way to protect power lines from the elements.  Underground lines are susceptible to flooding and above-ground pole-mounted lines are vulnerable to high winds.


Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Kahu Halemanu Ainsley blessing the Joint Traffic Management Center

Meanwhile, Kahu Halemanu Ainsley blessed the City and County of Honolulu’s Joint Traffic Management Center at the corner of South King and Alapai Streets.  The project was halted by a contract dispute more than a year ago but construction has resumed and the facility is scheduled for completion early next year.   Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell.


“This Joint Traffic Management Center is designed to handle a Category 3 Hurricane.  And, it’s a place where Honolulu Police Department, Honolulu Fire Department, our Ocean Safety folks and everyone else in between from federal, state and county, in one room, able to communicate directly and in real time.”


Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Mayor Kirk Caldwell announces resumption of construction on JTMC


The Department of Emergency Management is planning to build a new Operations Center adjacent to the Joint Traffic building in 3-5 years.  Mayor Caldwell is also directing an effort to harden the city’s infrastructure.


“This is part of this mayor’s directive for climate change.  Given the kind of systems we see coming through, the amount of rain we see coming through, we really ought to start thinking different on how we design and build systems.  It’s a lot of money, but if it’s spread out over 10, 2, 3, 40 or 50 years, the cost can be absorbed and we have a much more resilient system in place.”


For HPR News, I’m Wayne Yoshioka.

Wayne Yoshioka
Wayne Yoshioka is an award-winning journalist who has worked in television, print and radio in Hawaiʻi. He also has been on both sides of politics as a state departmental appointee and political/government reporter. He covered Hurricane Iwa (1982) as a TV reporter; was the State Department of Defense/Civil Defense spokesperson for Hurricane Iniki (1992); and, commanded a public affairs detachment in Afghanistan (2006). He has a master's degree in Communication from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and is a decorated combat veteran (Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and 22 other commendation/service medals). He resides in Honolulu.
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