'Next time I'll be prepared:' Desperate isolation overlooked after ice storm, speakers say

'Next time I'll be prepared:' Desperate isolation overlooked after ice storm, speakers say

Renée Martin of Baie-Sainte-Anne says she spent three long days without electricity after the ice storm in late January and was completely unprepared — without even a flashlight.

"I felt very disconnected from everyone else," she told a public meeting Tuesday night in Miramichi, held as part of a review of the response to the storm.

"We have no cell service, we had no Wi-Fi, so there was no way to communicate with anyone."

Martin was one of about 20 people who attended the latest meeting about the ice storm, which left some households and businesses without power for more than 10 days.

In her community, she said, a warming centre was only set up on the third day of the power outage and no one had any idea there was a shelter available to them in Miramichi.

"We had no radio, we had no internet — our community did not know we had these resources because we were completely disconnected."

Martin has learned some lessons from the ice storm.

"I think mostly it's to be ready for it to happen again. I didn't have any flashlights, I didn't have any candles or anything, so next time I'll be prepared."

'We could have done better'

Bruce Macfarlane, a spokesperson for the province's executive council office, said he was satisfied with the number of people who have turned out for the first few meetings and expects attendance to rise as the meetings move north.

"We're getting very good opinions, comments, and suggestions and each place we go to we're learning new things from individuals," Macfarlane said.

"People are engaged and we're seeing people being very constructive with their comments — what worked well, what didn't work so well and what recommendations are there for the next time."

Hilda Robichaud, who lives in Fairisle, told the meeting she also hopes the community will be better prepared for the next storm.

She went six days without electricity and said more updates from officials were desperately needed.

"There was not enough communication ... no food, no water," Robichaud said. "There was shelters, yes, but people sometimes couldn't even attend to those shelters. I would like to have something closer to home in our own region, so that we could at least go out and help the people in our local region that needed help."

Robichaud said there were elderly people who were not taken care and who were hungry and cold.

"So I would like something closer to home so that our own people ... we could have done better than that," she said.

The ice-storm review is led by Judy Wagner, the clerk of the executive council and head of the public service. She has been meeting with municipal leaders before each public meeting. 

The final two public meetings will be held in Lamèque on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Club d'age d'Or and in Bas-Caraquet on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the Club d'age d'Or.