Lava Destroys 400+ Utility Poles, Cutting Power to Parts of Hawaii

by | May 30, 2018 AT 10:05 AM

By Andrew Gomes

Hawai'i Electric Light Co. officials said that some lower Puna customers will be experiencing extended power outages after lava damaged or destroyed more than 400 poles and other equipment in the area.

Electricity has been cut off to:

>> Kapoho, including Vacationland Hawaii and Kapoho Beach Lots.

>> Lanipuna Gardens.

>> Leilani Estates from Moku to Mohala streets including all connecting roads.

>> Areas along Highway 132

The company said it is is evaluating options to serve Vacationland Hawaii and Kapoho Beach Lots areas after eruption activities cease.

All work to restore electricity service to areas that lost power due to lava will be performed after a damage assessment is complete, Hawai'i Electric Light Co. officials said.

State conservation officers have arrested a New York state couple for allegedly violating park closure and evacuation orders in an active lava zone.

Department of Land and Natural Resources officials said that the couple Monday night bypassed a security check-point on Highway 132, parked near the closed Lava Tree State Monument and walked "into an area of intense active lava flow." The man and woman told officers from DLNR's Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement that a resident told them how to get around the check-point.

The pair was cited for loitering and refusal to evacuate during a pending disaster, according to a DLNR news release.

Officers also cited a boat owner for boat safety equipment violations after the boat was tied up at the closed Pohoiki Boat Ramp and was unable to return to the Wailoa Small Boat Harbor in Hilo.

All of the citations issued Monday are petty misdemeanors, but can carry higher penalties because they happened during a disaster situation, officials said.

"The volcano emergency is an ever-changing situation," said Jason Redulla, acting chief of the DLNR division. "People who ignore closures and warnings from police, fire and civil defense authorities not only put themselves in potentially life-threatening situations, but they are doing the same to our officers and emergency first-responders."

Puna Geothermal Venture has completed work to prepare the rest of its power plant near Pahoa to be overrun by lava, Hawaii County officials announced this morning.

The company has plugged and cemented all its geothermal energy production wells as of this morning, the county said.

In addition, PGV has flushed its network of pipes that connect wells to a variety of equipment that includes turbines that produce electricity to make the entire facility safe in the face of advancing lava flows.

Two of three wells previously sealed up by PGV were buried by lava between Sunday evening and Monday morning, and the company on Monday was working to seal up its few remaining production wells.

Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim said in a statement this morning that the company worked hard to carry out its lava protection plan.

"The work they did was tremendous, and the relief to the community is tremendous," he said.

County officials said Monday there was no release of any dangerous hydrogen sulfide gas from the wells buried by lava, as some feared might happen if lava breached the well shafts that tap steam and hot water several thousand feet down.

This morning, lava this morning was largely coming from fissure 8 that reactivated in the Leilani Estates subdivision near the power plant. At least two other fissures were active with lava production.

Lava crossed Pohoiki Road again at 5 a.m. this morning and was within several hundred yards of Highway 132. In response, the county closed the highway at about 1:30 a.m. That leaves Beach Road as the only access into lower Puna.

The county also closed Issac Hale Beach Park today after reopening it Monday to use for recreation.

Overnight, lava in Leilani Estates likely destroyed at least two homes but maybe more, the county reported. That follows the loss of 10 homes overnight Sunday. Public safety officials are working on getting a better assessment of homes impacted between Monday evening and this morning.

One new product of the fountaining lava this morning was Pele's hair, harmful fine strands of volcanic glass fibers that are so abrasive that they can scratch car windshields if wiped away using windshield wipers. The fibers, which can lodge in skin along with injuring eyes and lungs, were reported to be falling in the Pahoa area, according to the National Weather Service.

At the summit of Kilauea, there was a major explosion at 1:56 a.m. that propelled ash up an altitude of 15,000 feet, the county reported.

Because of light easterly winds, sulfur dioxide, which is irritating and less of a health concern than hydrogen sulfide gas, continues to affect areas downwind of the pumping lava.

Tradewinds that typically blow the sulfur dioxide away from most East Hawaii populations are expected to return Wednesday.

County officials plan to hold community meetings today and Wednesday: one today at 5 p.m. in Pahoa High School's cafeteria, and one Wednesday scheduled for 5:30 p.m. in the multipurpose room at Kau High.

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