- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 28, 2008

HONOLULU | Crews gradually restored electrical service across parts of Oahu on Saturday after a power failure blacked out the island’s population of about 900,000 and thousands of visitors including President-elect Barack Obama.

Residents had been urged to stay home after the lights went out during a thunderstorm Friday evening. Hawaiian Electric Co. was investigating the cause.

Service had been restored to about 180,000 of the utility’s 295,000 customers by 8:30 a.m. Saturday, power company officials said.

Mr. Obama, wife Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha are staying in a $9 million, five-bedroom oceanfront home near downtown Honolulu. Power was restored to the neighborhood before 6 a.m.

Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann told the Associated Press that while he did not talk to Mr. Obama directly, he had conveyed an offer for assistance shortly after the blackout began and was told the president-elect and his family were doing fine.

Mr. Hannemann said three generators had been installed earlier for the rented compound. He said a fourth generator that Hawaiian Electric had sent for Mr. Obama was turned away, but the power company later set up a bigger one in the neighborhood in case it was needed.

“He replied he didn’t need anything, was grateful for our offer and was going to put his family to bed,” Mr. Hannemann said.

Transition officials would not say whether generators had been installed, but an aide said no generators were used and the Obamas spent the evening in the dark.

Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt said the Obamas were “grateful for the offers of assistance from local officials.”

Hawaiian Electric spokeswoman Jan Loose said power to some neighborhoods would likely not be restored until late Saturday.

“Keep your fingers crossed. We should have everybody restored. But folks on the east side will be out most of the morning,” Ms. Loose said.

Honolulu International Airport operated on emergency generators, with flights delayed up to several hours. Some incoming passengers were kept on planes for extended periods.

Hawaiian Electric spokesman Peter Rosegg said the initial power outage hit at 6:45 p.m., affecting most of the island. The rest of Oahu lost power two hours later when the last generator failed.

Telephone provider Hawaiian Telcom kept most of its system in service on generator and battery backup, spokeswoman Ann Nishida said.

The outage closed stores at major retail outlets just after sunset, halting post-Christmas shopping a couple of hours early.

Highways were clogged as everyone tried to get home at once without stoplights to control traffic.

“I would advise everyone to just go to sleep,” Gov. Linda Lingle said in a radio interview late Friday.

It was the first time all of Oahu had lost power since Oct. 15, 2006, when a 6.7-magnitude earthquake shook the Hawaiian Islands and knocked out power on Oahu and parts of other islands for up to two days. Authorities at the time expressed concern that the whole island lost power and the same concerns were being raised Saturday.

“This is something in Hawaiian Electric’s hands,” said Mr. Hannemann, who governs all of Oahu. “There are some legitimate questions to be raised. We would like to know how we can ensure this type of thing doesn’t happen again.”

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