About 1,000 businesses and residences in Kaanapali and Puukolii were without electricity for a few hours Tuesday, and police directed traffic at some intersections on Honoapiilani Highway, following a power outage caused by an early-morning fire at the Maui Electric Co. substation in Puukolii.
Lahaina engine, ladder and tanker companies were dispatched to the 6:36 a.m. fire at the substation on Puukolii Road, said Fire Services Chief Lee Mainaga. Crews contained the fire to a mobile transformer inside the substation and had it extinguished by 7:45 a.m.
Damage to the transformer was estimated at $1 million, Mainaga said. The cause of the fire was undetermined after an investigation, he said.
MECO spokeswoman Kau'i Awai-Dickson said the fire caused the outage, which affected Kaanapali resort areas and water well facilities.
She said power was restored in increments beginning at 7:50 a.m., with the majority of affected customers - approximately 800 - brought back on line at 12:38 p.m. Shortly before 1 p.m., power was restored to all remaining customers, she said.
"Maui Electric apologizes for the inconvenience to those affected and sincerely thanks customers for their patience and understanding," Awai-Dickson said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.
At Starbucks in Lahaina Cannery Mall, which didn't lose power, customers from affected Kaanapali hotels lined up for coffee Tuesday morning, keeping the coffee store busy, an employee said.
Some affected businesses relied on generators to continue operations until electrical service was restored by about 10:40 a.m. to areas of Kaanapali, bounded by Honoapiilani Highway, Kaanapali Parkway and Kekaa Drive, and to areas of Puukolii, bounded by Pioneer Mill Co. Cane Haul Road, Halelo Street and the Kaanapali Vista subdivision. The outage had affected hotels including the Royal Lahaina Resort, Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa, Kaanapali Ocean Resort, Marriott's Maui Ocean Club and the Kaanapali Alii.
The Lahaina Police Station also lost electricity but continued its operations, running on a generator, said Capt. John Kaupalolo, commander of the Lahaina Patrol District. With traffic signal lights out from the Front Street intersection near the Five Palms restaurant and areas to the north, officers directed traffic at a few intersections on Honoapiilani Highway, including the one near the Lahaina Civic Center, Kaupalolo said.
He said he hadn't heard of any significant problems, with hotels using backup systems to continue operations.
The Sugar Cane Train, which has a baseyard at Puukolii, wasn't affected by the outage and continued its regular trips Tuesday, said employee Linda Magalianes.
She and her neighbors in the Villages of Leialii subdivision did lose electricity Tuesday morning, Magalianes said. When she walked outside after 6 a.m., "all I could see was black smoke," she said.
She said she left the house at about 7:30 a.m. to take her husband to work, and on the trip back home noticed that traffic signal lights weren't working and electricity was off in her neighborhood. "I thought, 'I know I paid my bill,' " she said.
With police officers stationed at intersections, she said traffic didn't seem to be affected. But some customers complained about not being able to use their telephones, she said.
Awai-Dickson said MECO was working with fire officials to investigate and identify the cause of the fire.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at email@example.com.