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‘Selfish’ strike stuns Ewa Beach

    Utility and street light poles toppled by high winds during last night's storm closed Ewa-bound lanes yesterday on Fort Weaver Road between Old Fort Weaver and Renton roads.

Ewa Beach leaders and residents expressed outrage and disappointment that Hawaiian Electric Co. workers chose to strike yesterday afternoon while thousands in their region remained without power through the day.

State Rep. Kimberly Pine (R, Ewa Beach-Iroquois Point) said IBEW Local 1260 workers should be "ashamed of themselves" for their actions.

"I find this completely unacceptable and selfish to walk off during a crisis in my community," Pine said. "There is a time and a place to negotiate salary, and now is not the time. They have an obligation to help people first."

A large tree near the Child & Family Service headquarters that fell around 3 a.m. yesterday caused a chain reaction that toppled about 20 utility poles along Fort Weaver and Old Fort Weaver roads, knocking out power and closing all three makai-bound lanes of Fort Weaver Road, the region’s main traffic artery.

A makai contra-flow lane was started at about 3 p.m. All lanes were reopened at about 6 p.m.

Businesses and residents scrambled through the day to make ends meet.

Councilman Tom Berg also called the timing of the strike unacceptable. "We’ve been good patrons to HECO over this time, supporting their workers, and for them to stab us in the back like this is unacceptable."

Sen. Will Espero (D, Ewa-Honouliuli-Ewa Beach) said he urged Gov. Neil Abercrombie to press management and union officials to reach an agreement quickly.

"It’s so dangerous, just going through the intersections on Fort Weaver Road," he said. Along major intersections without operating traffic signals, "People were just speeding through" and not obeying the four-way-stop rule, he said.

Jim Moylan, an insurance agent who works and lives in Ewa Beach, said he was troubled by the situation.

Moylan was forced to stay home yesterday because there was no electricity in his office. Like other Ewa Beach residents, he had to care for his children and went out only to pick up necessities like a cooler, batteries and candles.

During the early hours of the outage, Moylan said he tried to be understanding. "But as time goes by and we hear organized union workers are taking advantage of the situation, that’s disappointing," he said.

Moylan said he is most worried about Ewa Beach’s large senior and youth populations, who might need medicine refrigerated or medical equipment that requires electricity.

"Now is the time we’re supposed to come together in this community, when there’s a disaster, not break apart."

The Ewa Town Center’s Foodland, Ewa Beach’s only grocery store, was powered by a generator throughout yesterday but was expected to close at 11 p.m. "for safety reason" caused by darkness, Foodland spokeswoman Sheryl Toda said.

It was expected to reopen at 7 a.m. today, she said.

The generator allows the store to operate its registers and "very limited lighting," she said. Chilled items were being picked up by vendors, she said.

Dean Hashimoto, owner of the Ewa Seed Shop, managed to continue selling shave ice by using a small generator he picked up after the 2006 earthquake.

The Subway tried to stay open as long as it could, selling only cold sandwiches, said manager Fay Dubey. Business was brisk during breakfast but leveled off after power went out at the shopping center at 9 a.m.

Up the street, at the Ewa Zippy’s, manager Jeanette Makaena’s crew stayed open after losing electricity at 9 a.m., selling items from the steam table such as chili and soup, and the dry and cold bakery showcases.

It shut down shortly thereafter, but the restaurant was expected to have a generator in place so it could reopen by 6 p.m., Makaena said.


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