Crews restored most electrical service across Oahu on Saturday after a power failure left the island's population of about 900,000 and thousands of visitors, including President-elect Obama, in the dark.

Share story

HONOLULU — Almost all of Oahu had electrical power restored Saturday after a power failure blacked out the island’s population of about 900,000 and thousands of visitors including President-elect Barack Obama.

Residents had been urged to stay home after the lights went out during a thunderstorm Friday night.

Obama, wife Michelle, and daughters Malia and Sasha are staying in a rented $9 million oceanfront home near downtown Honolulu. Power was restored to the neighborhood before 6 a.m.

The utility had restored power to 276,000 of its 293,000 customers as of 4:15 p.m. Saturday, said a spokesman.

Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann said that while he did not talk with Obama, he had conveyed an offer for assistance shortly after the blackout began and was told the president-elect and his family were doing fine.

He said three generators had been installed earlier for Obama’s rented compound. He said a fourth generator that Hawaiian Electric had sent for Obama was turned away, but the power company later set up a bigger one in the neighborhood in case it was needed. The compound was left in the dark for 11 hours, officials said.

It was the first time all of Oahu had lost power since Oct. 15, 2006, when a 6.7-magnitude earthquake shook the Hawaiian Islands and knocked out power on Oahu and parts of other islands for up to two days. Authorities at the time expressed concern that the whole island lost power and the same concerns were raised Saturday.

“This is something in Hawaiian Electric’s hands,” said Hannemann, who governs the whole island. “There are some legitimate questions to be raised. We would like to know how we can ensure this type of thing doesn’t happen again.”

The Honolulu Advertiser said the blackout prevented printing and delivery of the paper Saturday, but it provided an electronic edition on its Web site headlined “POWERLESS.”

Honolulu Star-Bulletin editor Frank Bridgewater said his paper planned to deliver a one-section, 16-page edition later Saturday.

Honolulu International Airport operated on emergency generators, with flights delayed up to several hours. Some incoming passengers were kept on planes for extended periods.

Hawaiian Electric spokesman Peter Rosegg said the initial power outage hit at 6:45 p.m., affecting most of the island. The rest of Oahu lost power two hours later when the last generator failed. Highways became clogged as everyone tried to get home at once without stoplights to control traffic.

The telephone provider Hawaiian Telcom kept most of its system in service on generator and battery backup, spokeswoman Ann Nishida said.