Haleakala customers finally get power back

Snow, ice and wind damaged equipment Feb. 10

Maui Electric crews worked seven days a week to bring a remaining pocket of commercial customers back online after a massive windstorm in February caused extensive damage to the electrical system atop Haleakala. Maui Electric Co. photo

The Maui News

Snow, ice, rain, wind and rugged and remote locations did not stop Maui Electric Co. crews from restoring power to all customers atop Haleakala, though it took about a month.

The utility announced the restoration of power to the small remaining pocket of commercial customers atop Haleakala on Tuesday. They have been without power since Feb. 10 when strong winds, snow and ice caused extensive damage to the electrical infrastructure, MECO spokeswoman Sayble Bissen said.

After the snow and ice atop Haleakala melted, crews were able to travel to the summit and start damage assessments. Maui Electric worked closely with the affected customers to ensure cultural and environmental protocols were followed before restoration work began, she said.

Once damage assessments were completed, crews from Maui Electric and Hawaiian Electric worked seven days a week to bring the remaining commercial customers back online. The job included restringing a mile of transmission and distribution lines, replacing and repairing equipment on 60 poles and replacing 22 poles, Bissen said.

It was not an easy job given the remote and mountainous terrain. Because the area did not allow vehicle access, poles and equipment had to be flown in or carried by workers who hiked in, Bissen said.

“This was a unique restoration process that included our crews working long hours at high altitudes with steep terrain and limited vehicle access,” noted Sharon Suzuki, president of Maui County and Hawaii Island Utilities.

She thanked Haleakala National Park, Haleakala Ranch and the state Department of Land and Natural Resources for helping set up staging sites and access to work sites.

In addition to bringing snow and ice to unusually low elevations, the Feb. 10 storm generated heavy rain and wind gusts that brought down poles and damaged equipment across Maui, causing multiple outages.