Looking back at Tropical Storm Iselle

Hawaiian Electric
4 min readAug 8, 2017


Damaged caused by Tropical Storm Iselle

Aug. 8, 2017

Today marks three years since Tropical Storm Iselle blew through the islands.

In the early morning of Aug. 8, 2014, the storm made landfall on the southeastern side of Hawaii Island with maximum sustained winds of 60 MPH.

Iselle’s damaging winds tore roofs off homes and took down power lines. Parts of the island were also drenched with over a foot of rain and experienced flooding. Dangerously high surf pounded the coastlines.

The storm affected sister islands in Maui County and Oahu as well, and all three service areas experienced extended power outages. However, Hawaii Island took the brunt of Iselle’s wrath, incurring millions of dollars in damages and leaving hundreds of residents without basic utilities.

Damaging surf on Hawaii Island’s Hilo shores

Hawaii Electric Light, together with help from Hawaiian Electric and Maui Electric, had crews respond to numerous areas to work on clearing debris, setting up poles and lines, and safely restoring power to customers. The work continued in shifts throughout the day and night, so long as conditions were safe enough for crews to make repairs and in some cases, check individual homes to ensure that power had been safely brought back online.

Hawaii Electric Light also established a community center in the Puna district of the island to provide mobile phone chargers, ice, water, and perhaps most importantly, updated information on the effort to restore power to the customers.

Hawaii Electric Light temporary community center in Puna

Many customers were without working phone or Internet service so social media played an integral role in connecting them with the utility since mobile service was still available in some areas.

One customer reached out to us via social media and provided her elderly parents’ home address, requesting help. Not being able to contact them once the storm hit, she was worried that they weren’t safe and/or didn’t know what do. Our Hawaii Electric Light team quickly added the address to their follow-up list and made their way to the area to check in on them. They found the customer’s parents waiting patiently to have their power restored, along with their neighbors. The good news was relayed back to the customer. Her parents wanted her to know that they were just fine and that as soon as power was restored, they would reach out to her.

Hawaii Electric Light crews working on repairing damage caused by Iselle

The impact of Iselle is still fresh in many Hawaii residents’ minds. But for others — three years removed — it may be easy to fall into complacency, especially when they’ve not suffered the effects of severe weather.

The lesson Iselle taught us is that emergency situations can occur at any time and even a storm with non-hurricane force winds can cause severe damage. The National Weather Service’s Central Pacific Hurricane Center reminds us not to be complacent through the remainder of hurricane season. Our recent history of active storms in Hawaiian waters is telling: In 2015, there were 16 tropical cyclones in the Central Pacific; in 2016, Tropical Storms Darby, Madeline and Lester affected us or came dangerously close.

Please prepare now to ensure the safety of your ohana, homes and businesses. Our Handbook for Emergency Preparedness is available as a free download, in several different languages, from our websites:

· Oahu: HawaiianElectric.com/Prepare

· Maui, Molokai, Lanai: MauiElectric.com/Prepare

· Hawaii Island: HawaiiElectricLight.com/Prepare

Additionally, we proactively tweet outage notifications via our Twitter feeds:

· Oahu: @HwnElectric with the hashtag #OahuOutage

· Maui: @MauiElectric with the hashtag #MauiOutage

· Molokai: @MauiElectric with the hashtag #MolokaiOutage

· Lanai: @MauiElectric with the hashtag #LanaiOutage

· Hawaii Island: @HIElectricLight with #BigIslandOutage

As a reminder, the best way to report power outages is to call each island’s 24–7 Trouble Line. This helps notify crews of your exact location, versus a general area:

· Oahu*: 1–855–304–1212

· Maui: 808–871–7777

· Molokai: 1–877–871–8461

· Lanai: 1–877–871–8461

· Hawaii Island: 808–969–6666

* Alternately, Oahu customers may also report outages via our website: www.HawaiianElectric.com/ReportOutage

The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency stresses the importance of being prepared for any emergency, through hurricane season and beyond. They remind us that tsunamis and earthquakes have no “season,” and can strike at any time.

Always be safe, plan ahead, and be prepared.



Hawaiian Electric

Established in 1891, Hawaiian Electric is committed to empowering its customers and communities by providing affordable, reliable, clean and sustainable energy.