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10s of thousands of P.E.I. residents still without power 10 days after Fiona

  • If your data or internet is limited in the aftermath of post-tropical storm Fiona, click here for the CBC Lite version of the P.E.I. site. 

As the 10th day after post-tropical storm Fiona dawns on P.E.I. life is in some ways returning to normal — but about 18,000 Maritime Electric customers are waking up without electricity, meaning no light, heat, hot water, poor internet connections, and for some, no running water either.

With an average of 2.3 Islanders per household, that comes to more than 40,000 people still in the dark.

The province is making efforts to return to normal. Most schools will reopen Monday, along with the University of Prince Edward Island and Holland College, and the provincial civil service was called back to work on Thursday.

But for those without electricity getting ready for work will be more of a struggle than usual.

The weather has been mostly mild since Fiona hit the Island on Sept. 24, tearing up trees and devastating the power grid. That has reduced potential problems for Islanders who can’t run their furnaces without electricity, but temperatures fell below the freezing point overnight Sunday, and another frost advisory is in effect for Monday night.

Schools reopening

While children are being called back to school on Monday for the first time since the storm hit, nine schools will not be reopening either because of damage or because they still have no power.

The schools that will not open Monday are:

  • Cardigan Consolidated.
  • Donagh Regional.
  • École Évangéline.
  • Montague Regional High.
  • Prince Street Elementary.
  • Queen Charlotte Intermediate.
  • Queen Elizabeth Elementary.
  • Saint Jean Elementary.
  • West Kent.

The province has launched a website that will be updated twice a day with information about school openings.

Emergency short-staffed

Islanders are being told to expect longer than normal wait times at the emergency department of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown. At 6:40 a.m. AT Monday, Health P.E.I. was reporting a wait time of more than 10 hours for urgent cases.

Health P.E.I. says staff are feeling the impacts of Fiona, and there is still more absenteeism than normal due to COVID-19. Operating room nurses are being offered double time in some cases to work in the emergency department.

Trees fallen down on house
Many Islanders are dealing with extensive damage to their homes. (Mikee Mutuc/CBC)

“We’re all dealing with the same situation that everybody else in the general public is dealing with,” said Mike MacDonald, acting associate director of clinician nursing.

“Some folks have suffered, you know, damage to their houses, property, those kinds of things. And so we’re asking staff to come in and work and support Islanders and yet still deal with their own situations at home. So it has been stressful on staff.”

People without urgent needs are being told to avoid the emergency department, but MacDonald said the emergency room would not shut down completely despite the staffing issues.

Red Cross shelter

The Canadian Red Cross opened a disaster shelter in Charlottetown on Saturday.

The shelter at the Murchison Centre is open 24 hours a day, providing power, food, water and personal hygiene kits, as well as a warm place for people to sleep. Hot meals are being provided by local caterers.

The Red Cross is attempting to balance supply and demand. Uneaten meals are distributed to those without access to housing who are living in encampments in the city.

Cruise visits cancelled

P.E.I. businesses that rely on cruise ships during the shoulder season — particularly on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic, which was disastrous for the  tourism industry — have been hit hard by cancellations.

Sixteen cruise ships have cancelled their visits since Fiona hit, representing about 55,000 visitors.

Newfoundland Power utility truck at work on P.E.I.
More than 200 line crews, some from as far away as Ontario, are working on P.E.I. to restore power. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

“It’s the two busiest weeks of our season,” said Port Charlottetown CEO Mike Cochrane.

While it is difficult for the industry, Cochrane said they are aware of the difficulties many Islanders are facing without any electricity for more than a week. While he is keen to see ships return, Port Charlottetown does not want to put pressure on already stretched resources.

“We just are thinking of everyone who is, you know, without power and trying to get power restored,” he said.

Even if ships can’t dock this week, he does hope the four-cruise-ship day booked for Sunday will happen.

National Park closures

10s of thousands of p e i residents still without power 10 days after fiona 2
A boardwalk to nowhere: The waves broke off the rest of this structure leading to the beach at Stanhope. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

Most of P.E.I. National Park is closed for cleanup after Fiona.

Officials issued another notice Sunday pleading with people to stay out of areas where restoration work is happening.

The work is dangerous for bystanders, officials warned, with tree felling and the use of heavy equipment. Crews need space to do the work safely.

Charlottetown cleanup

Fallen trees have created a particular mess in Charlottetown, the Island’s capital city, where many residents are still without power and streets are lined with brush that residents have dragged to the curb.

Scott Adams, manager of public works for the city, said crews are working from sunup to sundown to clear trees that are blocking roadways and sidewalks.

He said those crews are grateful for the support they’re seeing from residents.

A street lined with brush.
A street in Charlottetown is lined with brush as residents clean up following post-tropical storm Fiona. (Kevin Yarr/CBC)

“A lot of our staff themselves had to leave their homes, didn’t have power,” said Adams.

“They’d be working in the street and you’d have people come out, offer them pots of coffee, offer them meals, hot meals. It was just a phenomenal thing.”

A release from the city Sunday said almost all municipal roads have now been cleared, while thirteen parks and playgrounds remain closed due to damage.

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