A week after Fiona, about 28,000 Maritime Electric customers on P.E.I. still without power

As of 5 p.m. Saturday, there were still about 28,000 Maritime Electric customers across the Island waiting for their power to be restored. (Anthony Davis/CBC - image credit)
As of 5 p.m. Saturday, there were still about 28,000 Maritime Electric customers across the Island waiting for their power to be restored. (Anthony Davis/CBC - image credit)

CBC P.E.I. continues to focus on the aftermath of Fiona. If your data or internet is limited, click here for the CBC Lite version of the P.E.I. site.

It's been one week since post-tropical storm Fiona slammed Prince Edward Island, leaving decades-old trees snapped in half, many properties damaged beyond repair and 82,000 Maritime Electric customers without power.

While many streets have been cleared, aid packages have been announced and schools are set to reopen Monday, about 28,000 households and businesses were still without power as of 5 p.m. Saturday, according to Maritime Electric's outage map.

In an interview with CBC News Saturday afternoon, Maritime Electric spokesperson Kim Griffin said about 200 crews are now working to restore power, and the utility expects most of them will be working until midnight.

Anthony Davis/CBC
Anthony Davis/CBC

She said about 65 per cent of customers have now had their power restored, but there are still communities across the Island that have been hit harder than others and where it's taking more time to get power restored.

She said it's difficult to give estimates on power restoration times because in some cases crews report getting to sites and being ready to work only to find there are stability issues with the surrounding trees, or that trees had fallen down in areas they thought had already been cleared.

"It's still slow going but our crew remains very optimistic ... very resilient and they're just doing it as fast and as safely as they can to get it on as soon as possible," she said.

"We're really worried when people don't have power and we're trying to keep our crews as focused as they can to be as efficient and safe as they can to get the job done."

Public safety concerns

With respect to safety, Griffin made an appeal for people to be especially careful while power lines are being re-energized. She said they are still seeing people out walking, running, biking and on scooters at night with no reflective clothing, headlights or battery-operated flashlights.

Anthony Davis/CBC
Anthony Davis/CBC

"We are noticing from a safety perspective a lot of that on the road," she said. "We have a lot of crews out working around the clock and it's really important for people to wear clothing that we can see, but also that they can be seen by the general public as well."

Islanders who need help cutting fallen trees on their property or moving large debris curbside because it is a safety hazard can call 1-833-734-1873 or email fionacleanup@gov.pe.ca to have their name put on a list for assistance.

Day 8 without power

In a Cornwall neighbourhood today, residents were dealing with their eighth day without power.

"It's kind of disheartening," said Edward Tremblett.

Anthony Davis/CBC
Anthony Davis/CBC

"I left my house to go to the reception centre and there was a sign saying the generator had blown up. Or not working," he said.

"So I didn't know where to go after that, so I went back home and I dialed 211 and asked where I should be able to maybe charge my phone ... or have a hot meal provided by any reception centre."

Tremblett said he was told there was nowhere in the Cornwall area that could offer that, and he can't leave the area because "I'm keeping gas in my truck to stay warm at night and charge my phone a little bit in the evening. So, there's really nowhere."

Nancy Riley is another Cornwall resident and the manager of a six-unit apartment building. She said residents and neighbours have been relying on each other for supplies.

Anthony Davis/CBC
Anthony Davis/CBC

"We're just lucky that our building sort of all got together and we were sharing each other's food at the start of it to get stuff eaten. And we had a little barbecue," she said.

"When someone goes to the store … they try to get some treats for everybody and … help charge people's phones or laptops and different things like that."

She said Cornwall has always been a tight-knit community, and this is a good example of that, particularly with people who are helping newcomer families who may not have experienced storms like this before.

"I think sometimes it makes the community even stronger ... you have your new people and they don't know what to do, and you have your usual people and it just helps everybody get along."

Anthony Davis/CBC
Anthony Davis/CBC

On Day 8, Chris Wilkinson was feeling positive that power restoration is in his near future. He's missed work in Stratford but now that power is restored at his workplace, he'll be going back on Monday.

In the meantime, he's been relying on camping skills to cook meals on his grandfather's old Coleman stove.

Wilkinson is getting married next weekend, something that will happen regardless of his power status.

"It's been postponed for the pandemic.... Fiona isn't going to postpone it again, so we're going ahead."

Mary-Helen McLeese/CBC
Mary-Helen McLeese/CBC

Payments for eligible Island households

The P.E.I. government is offering payments of up to $250 per household to help cover the cost of food, gas and other basic needs.

Residents can apply online through the Canadian Red Cross or by calling 1-800-863-6582 daily between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.

The Red Cross is opening a disaster shelter at the Murchison Centre at 17 St. Pius Ave. in Charlottetown for those in need of temporary relocation due to the impacts of Fiona. The shelter, which includes beds, power, food and water, is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The government is granting a 30-day grace period on the expiration of driver's licences and motor vehicle registrations.

No formal media briefings are scheduled for this weekend, according to a spokesperson for the province.