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Big Isle electricity provider restoring power to some Leilani Estates customers


    Lava burns pavement and utility poles at Leilani Estates in Pahoa on Tuesday. Hawaii Electric Light Co. officials warn residents to assume that downed power lines are energized and dangerous.

Hawaii Electric Light Co. said its crews are shutting down power circuits for parts of Leilani Estates and Lanipuna subdivisions that are threatened or damaged by the lava flow, while restoring power to other areas.

Crews replaced a Leilani Avenue utility pole that may have been knocked down after the ongoing volcanic and seismic activity shifted the ground, company officials said today. The pole blocked the road and caused an outage affecting about 500 Leilani Estates customers who still had power. The power is expected to be turned back on later today for those customers, they said.

The area remains under an evacuation order but many residents have been allowed to return temporarily to check on their property and retrieve belongings and pets or livestock.

Another 300 customers in Leilani Estates have been without electricity since the eruption began Thursday and about 50 customers in the neighboring Lanipuna Gardens lost power in the last 24 hours as new fissures opened nearby.

HELCO officials said that an aerial inspection found at least 50 poles are damaged, and they warn residents that all downed lines and equipment should be considered energized and dangerous.

“As the county Civil Defense agency has warned, this event remains extremely unpredictable and no one should make assumptions about when affected areas will be safe,” said company spokesperson Rhea Lee-Moku. “As the eruption moves into new areas, there may be additional outages so residents need to be prepared. We will only make repairs when it’s safe for our crews to do the work.”

Despite the shutdown of the nearby Puna Geothermal Venture plant, the electricity company said it still has sufficient power generation available to meet the island’s needs. The geothermal plant is an independent power producer that sells electricity to HELCO and typically provides about 25 percent of the island’s electricity, company officials said.

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