Hawaii Rural Water assists island after Typhoon

SAIPAN – Typhoon Soudelor passed directly over the island of Saipan on August 2, 2015. Hitting the island as the equivalent of a Category 2 hurricane, Soudelor destroyed hundreds of power poles and transformers, flooded the power plant, and left many roads impassable. Wind gusts on the island, reached as high as 91 miles per hour, before the measuring devices were destroyed. Saipan is a U. S. territory in the Northern Mariana Islands.

Jason Zufelt, a circuit rider with the Hawaii Rural Water Association, flew to the island, to help bring water back to the storm-ravaged island. Zufelt took common tools with him, like hydrant wrenches and pressure gauges, to help replace those lost in the storm and equip more teams working to restore water.

“I suggested isolating different villages to keep water in the storage tanks,” Zufelt said. “It made is easier to charge the system over a small area instead of a larger area, and it helped isolate leaks.”

At the time, the Saipan Commonwealth Utilities Corporation could only supply water to damaged areas for about an hour a day.

The change in strategy allowed smaller, two-man teams to start restoring water. As opposed to the six-man crews, that would be needed to restore the larger areas. Zufelt also trained the teams in how to slowly restore water pressure to prevent a water hammer effect that could lead to more damage. He showed teams how to create three-phase power from a single-phase generator, allowing CUC to power-up six additional water wells.

Zufelt learned these strategies as part of Rural Water’s Emergency Disaster Response training, which included hands-on training at the Arkansas Rural Water Association’s facilities in Lonoke, Ark.

Once areas began receiving water, Zuflet worked with small teams to locate and repair leaks.

Zuflet spent 11 days assisting the island, and when he left, the entire island was receiving water for at least four hours a day, with many areas, including the hospital, restored to full service.