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Waikiki plunges into chaos after Oahu Power Outage

eTN, Honolulu Advertiser, Star Bulletin  Dec 27, 2008

The power outage sent Waikiki into a sea of chaos for a few hours Friday night, as thousands of visitors descended from their high-rise hotel rooms in search food, water and just plain something to do.

But by 10 p.m., the traffic along Ala Moana Boulevard and Kalakaua Boulevard had transformed into a dark calm, with only a smattering of pedestrians and motorists still out.

Through the evening, most locals and visitors seemed to take matters in stride.

Motorists were left to brave their way through most Waikiki ntersections on their own, with only the most major intersections like Ala Moana and Ala Wai boulevards manned by police officers.

As for those on foot, the busiest areas were the front doors of Waikiki's ubiquitious ABC Stores, where customers were being allowed two to four at a time to purchase what provisions were left.

At the ABC branch on Ala Moana Boulevard location sandwiched between the Ilikai Hotel and Resort and the Hilton Hawaiian Village's Kalia Tower, people stood for up to 90 minutes as people were being let in two at a time.

Emerson Tuppil, the store's manager, said he did not even need to get any orders to spring into emergency mode. He and another employee immediately shut the doors and reopened with a sign on the door telling me people to please wait their turn to get in.

Tuppill led people into the store with a lantern. An emergency power light was working above a cashier's machine, which also was operating. "We have enough (generator) power for the cashier," he said.

Most people were visitors staying at nearby hotels in search of sandwiches, snack foods and soft drinks.

Among them was Dwight Winters, of Camarillo, Calif., who was staying at the Hawaiian Village's Tapa Tower. "Sandwiches, cups, bread," he said when asked what was on the top of his shopping list.

"We were going to go out for some Asian noodles," he said.

Winters came down 30 flights of stories for the privilege of standing in line with the other customers and his intent was to walk back up.

"That's the plan," he said.

Winters said that a number of years back, California was subjected to a long series of electrical "brownouts."

"These things just happen," Winters said, adding that he wishes technological minds would get together and focus on coming up with a way they would happen less frequently.

Throngs of hotel guests and restaurant goers hung out in the lobby, pool deck and other nooks and crannies on the lower levels of the Ilikai hotel with fire alarms still blaring nonstop at least an hour after the power first went out.

But most visitors appeared calm and even enjoying the cool evening.

Among them were Chris and Becca Pound of Tulsa, Okla., who had been up since 4 a.m. Central Daylight Time in order to make a 12-hour journey that took them to Chicago before arriving in Honolulu late in the afternoon.

The Pounds had just unloaded their luggage in their room on the 25th and top floor of the hotel, and were stepping out of the elevator to go to dinner when the outage hit.

"The wather is nice," Chris Pound said as he sat in a beach chair looking out into the dark Pacific Ocean.

Becca Pound said the ourage was nothing compared to the icestorm the couple went through in Oklahoma a few years back when they had water and gas but no electricity in their home for 10 consecutive days.

Also glad to be stuck in a Waikiki hotel lobby were Sandi and Barry Hartstein of Chicago, who were checking in at the Kalia Tower, after a week at the Ihilahi Hotel and Resort, when the outage occurred.

"We were able to get out stuff up the service elevator," Barry Hartstein said.

The two munched on snack food and soda. The ABC store they visited was already out of sandwiches by the time they were let in, they said.

"Remember, we're from Chicago," Barry Harstein said. "When we left, it was 10 below zero with wind chill."

Over at Kobe Japanese Steak House, Kane'ohe resident Bobby Wood and his party of 11 were continuing their celebration longer than they had originally planned.

Wood's children, Bobby Jr. and Shantelle, along with their mother, Yoko Kurokawa, were supposed to catch an 11 p.m. flight back to their home in California.

But when the party found out about the flight delays at Honolulu International Airport, the group decided to stay put and enjoy the evening. It was something the teenagers didn't mind because it meant more time hanging out with their half-brothers and –sisters.

"We at peace over here," the elder Bobby Wood said.

Restaurant general manager Emerson Ribao said he was glad to have them.

There were about 150 to 170 guests at the restaurant when the outage struck at about 7:30. Ribao said he went to each table and told diners that they could stay but that they would be eating by lantern light.

Most chose to stay.

Unfortunately, Ribao said, about 150 guests with later reservations had to be turned away.

Over at the Tapa Tower lobby bar, Olomana played its regular set as it has been doing Friday nights at the Hilton Hawaiian Village for the past 20 years. On this night, however, they were playing "Rockin' Robin" by candlelight.

The bar itself was not officially serving drinks, although hotel guests were being accommodated with some beverages.

Elsewhere at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, employees had set up stations where guests could get cups of water, soda, sandwiches and even glow sticks.

While most stood patiently in line, some guests grabbed out of place for their share and stormed away.

At least one elevator was operating at the Kalia and Tapa towers, two of Waikikis newest hotels.

Dozens of guests waited in line there as well I order to travel up to their rooms.

By 10 p.m. , there were few people coming down the elevators.

Back on Ala Moana Boulevard, the story was much the same. Where hours earlier there had been a virtual parking lot of cars, few vehicles were now traveling through the darkened streets.

A hub of activity remained at the ABC store between the Ilikai and Hilton Hawaiian Village, however, where now more than 75 people were in line to get in.

At the front of the line were friends Elisa Lum of 'Ewa Beach and Lydia Drews of Kapolei. The two are part of a crew of about a dozen women who began a weekend-long "girls night out" in Waikiki.

The women had gone to two other ABC stores and had decided that this third store had the shortest line. They nonetheless spent 90 minutes in the line, Lum said.

"We were going to go dancing and drinking," Drews said.

Now, they would be doing that in their hotels rooms, she said.

Even if they wanted to go home, she said, "we no more cars," she said, noting that their husbands had dropped them off in Waikiki earlier in the day and weren't expected back until Sunday.

Todd Nishimura of 'Ewa Beach and Kelli Sato of Waikele, who have been dating for about five months, were having the main course of a belated Christmas dinner at Sorrento's at the top of the Ilikai when the outage struck.

The two stayed at the restaurant for dessert and waited for the elevator to start operating again so they catch it back down the lobby.

Rather than brave the drive back to West O'ahu right away, the two decided to take in the sites in Waikiki. They settled on a quiet table outside the Tapa Tower where they people-watched and talked story.

Nishimura said he was impressed that for the most part, the people they came across were taking the situation in stride and showing signs of panic or frustration.

Some even asked him to take pictures of them.

"I think people are just accepting it," he said.
The city Department of Emergency Management is requesting that the public observe the following precautions until electrical service is fully restored:
* Keep cellphone and landline calls to a minimum.
* Call 911 only to report an actual emergency.
* Conserve water until the electricity is fully restored.
* Treat non-powered intersections as four-way stops.
* Once power to an intersection is restored, lights may flash yellow and red or all red until returning to normal operations. Flashing red means stop; flashing yellow means proceed with caution.
* Keep vehicle travel to a minimum.
* TheBus and HandiVan will operate as scheduled, but users should expect some delay.

s of 8:30 a.m. today, Hawaiian Electric crews had restored power to about 179,000 of their 295,000 customers on Oahu, said HECO spokesman Darren Pai.

Major areas in Honolulu's primary urban core were back online as of 8.00 am Saturday, as well as many communities in Central and Leeward Oahu, Pai said.
"Service has been restored to the airport and all of the major hospitals as well," Pai said.

He was not able to provide an estimate on how quickly service to the entire island will be restored.
The utility company has not been able to pinpoint where the problem started.
"Four of our major transmission lines tripped offline, three of them coming out of the Kahe power plant and one out of Waiau," Pai said.

He estimated that it will take "many more hours" for some of those without power to have it restored.
"We are asking those customer's whose power has been restored to please practice conservation to ensure stability on the (electricity distribution) grid," Pai said.

Waikiki plunges into chaos after Oahu Power Outage
Customers shop at an ABC store in Waikiki last night during the power outage.

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