MECO urges caution around electric lines

Maui Electric Co. is urging people to exercise caution while working near electric transmission lines after two outages in two days caused by heavy-equipment operators bringing down overhead power lines.

The first happened about 12:20 p.m. Tuesday when 286 customers on Molokai lost power after a truck snagged utility lines, toppling a utility pole and overhead lines near the Molokai Landfill and Recycling Center, the utility reported. Most customers had power restored by 1 p.m., with one other customer brought back online shortly after 10 p.m.

The second outage occurred at 8:23 a.m. Wednesday when an estimated 3,750 customers in Wailuku, Waiehu and Waihee lost power service for about 17 minutes when a construction worker using heavy equipment brought down power lines near Oma Oma Street in Wailuku, MECO said. After isolating the downed lines, power was returned to customers at 8:40 p.m.

MECO advised residents that, before digging near or around homes or businesses, customers may call a toll-free national number 811 to determine the location of underground utility lines and pipes.

“We should never take for granted the danger of overhead and underground power lines and always assume that they are energized,” said Bobby Motooka, Maui Electric’s safety director. “Whether you’re out picking mangoes or planning to do some repairs at home or on the job, it’s important to always be aware of your surroundings and stay clear of electrical lines and equipment.”

Safety tips include:

• Always look up and around for power lines before starting any work, such as fruit harvesting or tree trimming. If any part of a tree is touching overhead power lines, the tree could be energized with electricity. So, avoid the lines and tree itself.

• Use the 10-foot-rule: Always keep your body and any ladders, tools or other implements at least 10 feet away from overhead power lines.

• Do not try to free any object caught in a power line, assume the line is energized. Call Maui Electric at 871-7777 on Maui or, on Molokai or Lanai, call toll-free (877) 871-8461.