President-elect Barack Obama greets onlookers after working out at a fitness center in Kailua, Hawaii, on Saturday. Obama and his family were among thousands affected by a power outage after a thunderstorm hit the island.AP PHOTO
HONOLULU — Crews gradually restored electrical service across parts of Oahu on 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 just stay home after the lights went out during a thunderstorm Friday evening. Hawaiian Electric Co. was investigating the cause.
Service had been restored to about 180,000 of the utility’s 295,000 customers by 8:30 a.m. Saturday, power company officials said.
Obama, wife Michelle, and daughters Malia and Sasha are staying in a $9 million, five-bedroom oceanfront home near downtown Honolulu. Power was restored to the neighborhood before 6 a.m.
Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann told The Associated Press that while he did not talk with Obama directly, 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 replied he didn’t need anything, was grateful for our offer and was going to put his family to bed,” Hannemann said.
Hannemann 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.
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 being raised Saturday.
“This is something in Hawaiian Electric’s hands,” said Hannemann, who governs the entire 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.”
Hannemann told The Associated Press that some residents would be without electricity for 17 hours or more.