Hawaii island of Oahu loses power during storm

HONOLULU – The island of Oahu lost power during heavy rain and lightning, blacking out the population of some 800,000 people and thousands of tourists including vacationing President-elect Barack Obama.

Residents were advised by the power company and civil authorities to stay home after the Friday evening outage and to conserve water. Several radio stations broadcast emergency information.

Gov. Linda Lingle said Hawaiian Electric Co. was taking an emergency generator to the compound on the east side of the island where Obama has been staying. Lingle said she had asked the utility to notify her when it had been delivered.

Lingle said she expected power to be restored during the morning. Hawaiian Electric had restored power to about 30,000 customers by 2:40 a.m., spokesman Jan Loose told The Honolulu Advertiser.

Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann told KSSK radio that Obama is in one of the "most secure places, so he'll be OK." The mayor said he talked to Obama at 9:30 p.m., and that Obama said he was fine and planned to go to bed and sleep through the blackout, The Honolulu Advertiser reported on its Web site.

The cause of the outage was still being investigated.

Honolulu International Airport operated on an emergency generator, but Lingle said most outgoing mainland flights were postponed until daylight as airport officials struggled to process incoming flights. Some incoming flights were diverted to other Hawaiian islands, which have separate power grids.

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 a second generator failed.

Lingle said the utility asked the state to provide a helicopter at daylight so it can inspect power lines on a mountain ridge that it suspects were damaged.

The telephone provider Hawaiian Telcom had most of its system still in service on generator and battery backup, spokeswoman Ann Nishida told the Advertiser.

The newspaper said it was unable to put out its printed editions because of the outage.

Although the outage occurred during a thunderstorm, the weather cleared up quickly over most of the island.

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," Lingle said in a radio interview late Friday.

Several Christmas weekend events were scuttled by the blackout, including a show at the Blaisdell Concert Hall by comedian Howie Mandel.

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Associated Press writer Audrey McAvoy contributed to this report.


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