HONOLULU — A thunderstorm knocked out power throughout the Hawaiian island of Oahu after sunset Friday, forcing President-elect Barack Obama and his family to spend the night at their seaside vacation home in the dark as winds swept in from the ocean.
The street lights outside Obama's compound in quiet Kailua started to shut off about 6:30 p.m. Friday, and the president-elect's estate lost power about an hour later, not only inconveniencing the future first family but raising potential hazards for his security detail.
Utility crews restored power to the property around 6 a.m. Saturday, and by midday electrical service was back for many of the island's 900,000 residents and thousands of tourists, whose high-rise hotels stood mostly dark save for some tiki torches. The Hawaiian Electric Co. had restored power to 94% of its customers by late afternoon, a spokesman told the Associated Press.
Staying at the compound with his wife, Michelle, their two daughters and the families of several close friends, Obama spent the night in the dark. Three power generators were quickly delivered to the estate, and a utility company offered a fourth, but Obama instructed the operators not to fire them up, Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann said in an interview.
"They did not turn any of them on. . . . Obama politely declined and said that he and his family were going to go to bed," Hannemann said, adding that the family turned in around 9:30 p.m. "I used that admonition on the radio to tell all our residents to follow the lead of the president-elect and get your families tucked away, and hopefully by morning power will be restored."
Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt issued a statement saying, "The Obama family is grateful for the offers of assistance from local officials," but declined to offer further details.
The question of whether the Obama family slept without power provided plenty of fodder for residents here. On KSSK-AM radio, one host asked, "I wonder if because the president-elect is staying here we've made national news? . . . On little ol' Oahu!"
The blackout prevented printing and delivery of the Honolulu Advertiser on Saturday, but the newspaper still produced an online edition. The banner headline: "POWERLESS."
Meanwhile, just beyond the Obama estate's stone and lava-rock wall, Secret Service agents and Honolulu police officers labored through the night to maintain security for the president-elect.
The home's outside lights were not working, nor were the street lamps along the narrow two-lane road leading to a guard shack in front of the house.
To find their way, officers resorted to flashlights and glow sticks, Hannemann said.
Local authorities were prepared to bolster Obama's security detail outside the compound, and military personnel at a nearby Marine Corps base were in position should an incident require Obama to move, authorities said.
"They could move him very quickly, if they had to, to the Marine base; and he's on a peninsula, so it's very easy to secure," said Ray Lovell, a state civil defense spokesman.
But that turned out not to be necessary.
"At the request of the Secret Service, we dispatched one extra Honolulu Police Department vehicle, but that's all that we did," Hannemann said. "We didn't need to do any additional beefing up. . . . I was assured by HPD, in consultation with the Secret Service, that security was more than adequate."
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 for up to two days. Oahu is the state's most populous island.
Honolulu International Airport operated on emergency generators, with fights delayed up to several hours, the Associated Press reported. Some incoming passengers were kept on planes for extended periods.
Obama, who was born in Hawaii, arrived for a 12-day vacation with his family on Dec. 20.
The Obamas are in Kailua with close friends from Chicago and their families.