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Puna Disaster and Recovery Assistance Centers Announced

This is a Civil Defense message.

This is a Community Assessment and Assistance information update for Tuesday August 12at 7:00PM.   

Cots were set up in various parts of the Pahoa Community Center today.

Cots were set up in various parts of the Pahoa Community Center today.

HELCO crews continue to work on restoring power in the affected areas. About 6,800 customers remain without power. Thank you for your patience and understanding with this effort. Please do not interfere with the operations of the HELCO crews.

County, National Guard, and private crews continue to clear debris from roadways. All subdivisions currently have access to highways and main roadways, however there may be debris and obstructions within the subdivision roadways. Crews report that access to Wood Valley in Pahala has been cleared. Remember that all downed power lines should be treated as energized and avoided to ensure safety.

Hawaiian Shores reports that their water system is now operational and safe to drink.

Community Assistance Centers will be open tomorrow, Wednesday from noon to 4 P.M. at Community Centers in Hawaiian Shores, Leilani Estates, and Nanawale, as well as the Kalani Retreat Center.

These centers will offer water, ice, and other supplies while they last. Bring a container for ice or water as bags or bottles may not be available. If you are able to get to a retail store to get your supplies, we encourage you to do so and leave these supplies for those who cannot get to a store.

Damage assessments are ongoing and being conducted by the County Office of Housing and Community Development and the Hawai‘i National Guard.

The Hawai‘i State Emergency Management Agency and the County of Hawai‘i will set up Disaster Assistance and Recovery Centers on Hawai‘i Island to provide information and services to people whose property was damaged by the storm.

The schedule and location for the Disaster Assistance and Recovery Centers is:

  • Thursday August 14 and Friday August 15 from 8:00am to 8:00pm at the Pahoa Community Center
  • Saturday August 16 and Sunday August 17 from 8:00am to 8:00pm at the Mountain View Gym

For more information on the Disaster Assistance and Recovery Centers, contact the Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency at (808)733-4300 or askcivildefense@scd.hawaii.gov

Puna Power Restoration Update From HELCO

Crews continue to make progress on restoring power to customers affected by Tropical Storm Iselle. An estimated 6,800 – or about eight percent – of customers remain without power, down from an estimated 8,100 on Monday.

Today's update from HELCO

Today’s update from HELCO

“We understand many of our customers are still dealing with a very difficult situation. We are devoting every available resource to this effort. We have made progress and are committed to restoring power as quickly as possible,” said Darren Pai, Hawaii Electric Light spokesman.

Electrical line crews from West Hawaii have been redeployed to assist with the restoration. They joined a workforce that includes crews, equipment, and vehicles from East Hawaii, Oahu and Maui. Additional contracted crews include electrical line workers, construction crews to dig holes for new utility poles, and tree trimmers to clear fallen trees.

Collectively, these resources are allowing Hawaii Electric Light to maximize its efforts on restoring power in neighborhoods that are still without power.

Today, electrical line crews expect to make progress in the following areas: Hamakua, Upper Puna, Ainaloa, Hawaiian Beaches, and Hawaiian Paradise Park. Contracted crews will also be working in Leilani Estates and Nanawale. In addition, contracted tree trimming and construction crews are working to clear fallen trees, debris, and dig utility pole holes. This work is needed to prepare the area for electrical line crews to set new poles and repair fallen power lines and other damaged equipment. Restoration progress may be impacted by access to due storm debris, fallen trees, or other conditions in the field.

Every community in the Puna district was impacted. There are pockets throughout the region where the damage is so severe that customers should be prepared for an extended outage. Although crews are making progress and restoration in many areas may be much faster, preliminary estimates indicate it could take up to three weeks to restore power to the areas with the most significant damage, and in some cases even longer. These estimates are still preliminary and actual restoration times for each location will depend on the extent of the damage.

As a safety precaution, customers should not handle or move any fallen or damaged utility equipment. Customers are also reminded not to approach any downed power lines, as they may have electricity running through them and can be dangerous. If you see someone injured by a downed power line, call 9-1-1 for assistance.

Hawaii Electric Light continues to operate its Customer Information Center at the Hawaiian Shores Community Center in Hawaiian Beaches. An estimated 300 to 400 people visited the center when it opened on Monday. Company representatives will be on hand to answer questions from the public and provide the status of repairing the damage. Customers may bring their electronic devices and get them charged. A charging station will be available at the center. The center will remain open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. as the restoration process continues.

Senator Ruderman on “Dismissive Attitude Displayed By Election Officials” in Puna District Following Hurricane Iselle

I wish to express my concern for the people of Puna and my dismay at the seemingly dismissive attitude displayed by election officials concerning the primary elections in the Puna District.

Senator Russell Ruderman

Senator Russell Ruderman

Due to the damage caused by Hurricane Iselle on Friday, August 8, election officials made the decision to close two polling stations in the Puna district: Keonepoko Elementary School and at the Hawaiian Paradise Park Community Center. The decision was logical at the time, given that major roads to these polling stations were inaccessible due to fallen trees and electrical poles.

Unfortunately, however, there appear to be systemic, troubling failures in how this and subsequent decisions were carried out.  Residents who were able to reach these two polling stations despite the hazards were turned away and told that ballots would be mailed to them. This was initially a good plan, and allowed for the voters to address their immediate needs due to Hurricane Iselle. In the aftermath, election officials changed their minds and decided, without consideration of conditions on the ground (many residents are still without power, water, or internet) to instead require walk-in voting this Friday, August 15.  I am greatly concerned that the Election Office’s plan to mail notices and post signs on the sides of highways will not suffice due to number of residents that are still trapped and without communications.

I personally tried to contact Mr. Scott Nago, Chief Elections Officer, and to notify the offices of the actual candidates numerous times during the weekend to get some kind of update on what was happening on the ground, in the district. My calls went unanswered until late Monday when Mr. Nago contacted me AFTER a decision had already been made. Even during our conversation, Mr. Nago still failed to notify me of that decision.  This is extremely troubling and unfortunate.

Furthermore, many residents were assigned polling stations that remained opened; however, they could not reach them. These residents are not being offered an alternative means at all to cast a ballot. This is unacceptable, especially in light an analysis of Election Day precinct turnout showing an 11.5 percent turnout at Keaau High School, a 12 percent turnout at Pahoa Community Center and a 12.3 percent turnout at Pahoa High and Intermediate School. Mountain View Elementary School had a 14.3 percent turnout and an overall statewide turnout of 41.4% according to data compiled by the state Office of Elections clearly illustrates that turnout was badly affected.

These low numbers are in sharp contrast to the much higher turnout in the previous two elections, and indicate to me that many people who would normally have voted, could not because of the storm. These are my constituents, whom I know to be astute, active, and vocal when it comes to the political process. They are now being effectively disenfranchised by the unwillingness of election officials to take them into account. This is one more example of the unfairness of someone in Honolulu making a decision that unnecessarily punishes the people on a neighbor island without knowing, or seemingly caring, what the real conditions are on the ground.

Hawaii Law requires that the voting process to be complete 21 days after the primary election. My question is, why was a decision so hastily made to designate Friday the 15th as the day for elections for the two affected areas, when so many residents along Red Road, in Pohoiki, and other areas of Puna are still trapped by fallen trees? Not only is it is physically impossible for these voters to get to a polling station (and there is no plan to extend voting for hundreds of people in this situation), but the majority of these voters aren’t even aware that the decision has been made to reschedule the election in the first place.

The Governor, under Hawaii Revised Statutes 128-9(60 (6) Election hours, has the authority to adjust the hours for voting to take into consideration the needs of the citizens during such emergencies.

Hawaii Revised Statutes 128-9(60 (6) Election hours. To adjust the working hours of the voters during the national emergency and other emergency conditions, and for the purpose to suspend those provisions of section 11-131 which fix the hours for voting, and fix other hours by stating the same in the election proclamation or notice, as the case may be.

It is imperative that allowances be made to address the concerns and rights of eligible voters to be allowed to participate in our elections process. We still have the time and resources necessary to make amends and avoid the inevitable lawsuits that will be forthcoming should the decision to hold the voting on Friday stand. It is incumbent on officials to take the necessary actions to guarantee that all are afforded their Constitutional rights under law to that participation.

Sincerely,

Senator Russell E. Ruderman, Hawaii State Senate – 2nd District

Drone Footage of Hurricane Iselle

Drone footage of some of the damage done in my community of Puna here on the Big Island:

If you are interested in donating to the people of Puna please contact the Hawaii County Civil Defense Hotline at 808-935-0031.

SNAP Hurricane Victims Eligible for Money for Food Losses Caused by Hurricane Iselle

Thousands of Hawaii households remain without electricity in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Iselle this past weekend.  Most people affected by power outages reside on the east side of Hawaii Island. Others are scattered across Oahu and Maui County.

Senator Brian Schatz helps make chili and rice bowls at the Hawaiian Beaches Community Center in Puna, Hawaii.

Senator Brian Schatz helps make chili and rice bowls at the Hawaiian Beaches Community Center in Puna, Hawaii.

The Department of Human Services (DHS) reminds beneficiaries of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (formerly known as Food Stamps) that beneficiary households may request reimbursement for the actual dollar value of food destroyed by storm related power outages.  The reimbursement cannot exceed the household’s current monthly allotment (HAR 17-681-31).

To qualify for reimbursement, the affected household must have been participating in the SNAP when the disaster occurred, and report the loss to the DHS Benefit, Employment and Support Services Division (BESSD) within 10 business days of the severe weather event. The deadline to submit reimbursement requests for food spoiled during Tropical Storm Iselle is Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014.

To be considered for the reimbursement, the affected SNAP household must provide the DHS BESSD a signed statement that includes the following information:

1) Name of the storm and dates of impact;

2) General list of food items lost due to storm related power outage;

3) Length of time household power was out of service;

4) Statement that the household is aware of the penalties for the intentional misrepresentation of the facts; and

5) Statement that the household is aware that SNAP replacement allotment will not be issued if the required statement is not signed and returned within 10 days.

BEFORE MAILING OR DROPPING OFF the reimbursement request, SNAP beneficiaries should contact the BESSD Processing Center that maintains their case file for additional instructions. Individuals who don’t know which Processing Center maintains their file may call (808) 586-5720 to inquire.

An estimated 98,000 households currently receive SNAP benefits statewide.  There are approximately 25,000 SNAP households on Hawaii Island; 5,000 on Kauai; and 12,000 in Maui County.  To learn more about the Hawaii SNAP, visit the DHS website www.humanservices.hawaii.gov/bessd/snap.