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Cooling units see hot sales

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    Jovita Somera bought a new fan Wednesday with the help of sales associate Lita Montero at City Mill in Iwilei.
    Shoppers trying to keep cool have depleted the supply of box fans and air-conditioning units at stores throughout Oahu.

Tropical Storm Ignacio carried its big winds north and left large parts of the Hawaiian Islands windless and muggy, prompting a run on air conditioners at stores and a record jump in demand for electricity on Oahu.

Air conditioners were sold out at Home Depot in Honolulu on Wednesday and City Mill in Iwilei had only larger units left, employees said.

“We just got a shipment of air conditioners the other day and we’ve sold out most already.”

Ricky Kawamoto
Iwilei City Mill supervisor

“We just got a shipment of air conditioners the other day and we’ve sold out most already,” City Mill supervisor Ricky Kawamoto said. “They’re flying off the shelf.” Smaller air conditioners at 5,000 BTU are gone, but larger units with 15,000 BTU remain.

Those who came to the store searching for cooler nights became fans of fans.

Store manager Vicki Lebowitz said while there was still a good stock of fans, several buyers had said they’d been to other stores where fans had run out.

A small crowd Wednesday at the Iwilei store stood still in an area directly downwind from a dozen fans.

Six were sold in a span of 15 minutes.

Makiki resident Santiago Salvatierra said it’s so hot in his house his cat doesn’t move.

“He just lies there,” Salvatierra said.

Honolulu resident Steven Xiao said he bought a fan after weighing financial options. He estimated that buying a 1,500-BTU air conditioner would cost him about $150 a month in electricity.

“During the last two nights, demand for power has been the highest we’ve seen all year,” said Hawaiian Electric Co. spokesman Darren Pai. “We have seen a high demand due to … muggy weather.”

Pai said typically the peak demand is 1,000 to 1,100 megawatts.

The peak demand was 1,226 MW Monday and 1,232 on Tuesday.

Pai said HECO, which has 300,000 customers on Oahu, is capable of providing electricity with a current capacity of about 1,700 MW.

Hawaii has had close to record high temperatures and humidity that’s higher than normal.

In Hilo, for instance, the high temperature of 93 degrees on Wednesday set a record for the date, beating the old record of 89 set in 1987. On Tuesday, Hilo had a record high of 92 degrees, topping the old mark of 88 set just last year.

On Monday, Hilo’s high temperature of 89 degrees tied the record for the date set in 1996.

On Thursday, the high in Honolulu is expected to hit 90.

Humidity has been high for this time of year, with the dew point ranging from the middle to upper 70s, said National Weather Service meteorologist Leigh Anne Eaton. The higher the dew point, the more moisture there is in the air.

Eaton said humidity is usually about the upper 60s to lower 70s.

She said Tropical Storm Ignacio has blocked cool tradewinds from the northeast from blowing across the islands and allowed southerly winds from the equator to move into the state.

“We’ve just had lingering moist air over the islands,” she said.

Johnny Somera said he and his wife bought two fans to cool their home in Salt Lake.

“I couldn’t sleep because it was so hot at night,” Somera said. “There’s no wind over there.”

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