Fiona leaves most of P.E.I. without power; hurricane warning still in effect

A huge tree toppled by the force of Fiona's winds lies on the corner of Euston and Grafton streets in one of Charlottetown's older neighbourhoods. (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC - image credit)
A huge tree toppled by the force of Fiona's winds lies on the corner of Euston and Grafton streets in one of Charlottetown's older neighbourhoods. (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC - image credit)

Tens of thousands of Maritime Electric customers are without power in P.E.I. as Fiona continues to pound Atlantic Canada, with wind gusts on the Island hitting 150 km/h and almost 100 mm of rain down.

A hurricane warning remains in place for all three counties in P.E.I. as well as wind and storm surge warnings, but Environment Canada lifted its rainfall warnings at about 1:30 p.m. AT.

Islanders are being urged to stay at home and off the roads as the situation with Fiona continues to make venturing outside extremely dangerous.

Charlottetown Police have been warning about the danger from flying objects and noting that many roads are blocked by fallen trees.

Sheehan Desjardins/CBC
Sheehan Desjardins/CBC

"Police are asking the public to not be on the roads, this is hampering emergency vehicles from responding. Stay home and be safe," they said on Twitter.

RCMP in P.E.I. were tweeting as well: "#RCMPPEI is asking residents to stay off island roadways. Flash flooding, debris and power lines on the roads makes travel extremely dangerous. #StayHome"

The City of Charlottetown tweeted, "We have received reports of flat tires due to dangerous and unknown debris (including roofing nails) that can cause damage to cars and persons."

Summerside issued another safety message from the city's Twitter account: "There are several downed power lines and trees throughout the city, making travel extremely dangerous. Please remain home until these hazardous conditions improve & crews are able to begin clean up."

An Island without power

As of noon AT, more than 82,000 customers on P.E.I. were without power, according to the Maritime Electric outage map. Outages are widespread across the Island, covering about 95 per cent of the population, but are especially concentrated in the Charlottetown area and Kings County in the eastern third of the province.

Maritime Electric has about 86,000 customers in total, according to its website.

The utility's spokesperson, Kim Griffin, told CBC News that crews were able to restore power to some households that lost it Friday night, but it was knocked out again.

Submitted by Mike King
Submitted by Mike King

Griffin said Maritime Electric has over 55 crews poised for action, more than it had for post-tropical storm Dorian. She added that they won't be able to do an assessment of the need for more crews until Fiona has fully passed on from the Island.

On Friday, the company said some customers could still be without power come Sunday.

"As soon as we can safely get out, we're going to get out and assess this damage as quickly as we can," Griffin said.

Submitted by Brodie O’Keefe
Submitted by Brodie O’Keefe

CBC News contacted Rogers and Bell Mobility after hearing of service disruptions from customers but has not yet received information from either cellphone and internet service provider.

Powerful post-tropical storm

CBC meteorologist Jay Scotland said Fiona is now a powerful post-tropical storm moving through the eastern Gulf, toward the western coast of Newfoundland.

"Fiona has already battered the Island with destructive winds," he said.

Scotland said peak gusts of 100-150 km/h have been reported in addition to heavy rain, with some areas already reporting 70-100+ mm of rain. Rain is still falling and a powerful northerly wind continues to roar across the Island with gusts topping 100 km/h possible well into the afternoon.

Maritime Electric
Maritime Electric

Scotland said the rain will ease this afternoon and the strong winds will begin to ease gradually in the late afternoon and early evening.

"Until they do, Islanders should stay indoors, as flying and falling debris is a significant hazard, as are the many downed power lines," said Scotland.

"As for assessment and clean-up? That will have to wait until tomorrow. While Sunday will be a bit breezy, sunny and mild weather is expected here on P.E.I."

'Like nothing we've ever seen'

At the height of the storm, Maritime Electric and Charlottetown Public Works had pulled crews from responding to calls, saying it was too dangerous for them to be out.

Jay Scotland/CBC
Jay Scotland/CBC

"Conditions are like nothing we've ever seen," Charlottetown Police Services said on Twitter overnight. "We are logging reports of downed trees and wires but will only be responding to emergency calls."

Tanya Mullally of the provincial Emergency Measures Organization said Saturday morning that while it's too early for EMO to have received any formal reports, they've been monitoring social media for reports of damage.

"Storm surge is kind of hitting along the north side right now quite significantly so we're seeing report of water over the wharves ... where we have tide gauges," she said.

"We know there's damage out there and it's pretty broad and it's pretty extensive. Power is out I'd say almost 95 per cent across the province."

Provincial dispatchers said the province doesn't have vehicles on the roads, and that they would only escort EMS or first responders if requested.

The City of Charlottetown said in a release its dispatch centre received over 100 calls overnight regarding downed trees and power lines. It said 26 calls were made to the city's fire department since Friday at 9 p.m. AT and that emergency personnel are currently triaging calls.

"Please note that, at this time, calls regarding public safety will be prioritized over calls regarding property damage," the release said.

Martin Trainor/CBC
Martin Trainor/CBC

"Crews are doing what they can, but the majority of the cleanup work will begin once wind speeds decrease from the levels we are currently experiencing."

Meanwhile, residents are being advised not to proceed to designated reception centres until it's deemed safe to do so, adding that a further announcement on the location of the centres will be made in the coming hours.

Jay Scotland/CBC
Jay Scotland/CBC

An emergency alert went out at around 7 a.m. reminding Islanders to stay inside in a safe location, and stay away from windows and doors due to the extreme winds.

On Friday, Environment Canada was blunt about the storm's possible impact in its hurricane warning post.

"These winds could cause significant tree fall and result in extended utility outages. Damage to building cladding and roofing material is likely, including structural damage in certain cases. Winds of this strength could cause windows to break and tear off large overhead highway signs."

The warning also said Fiona "will result in damage to docks and breakwaters. Significant shoreline erosion and large waves are expected where winds blow onshore."

'The roof came off'

David Sansom, president of the Red Head Harbour Authority in Morell, said about a third of the harbour's structure "let go."

"[The boats are] all beaten. Some boats will be OK and some are going to have damage," he said.

"One mussel plant, the roof came off. We don't really know the extent of the damage. It's still too dark. Power has been out since midnight.... The tide was so high nobody could get to anything. You couldn't even drive out."

Another building that fell casualty to the storm was the Stanhope Golf & Country Club's clubhouse. Fire officials confirmed to CBC that a fire consumed the entire building on Saturday.

For the time being, residents are being warned to stay away from the shore altogether due to the risk of large waves and dangerous rip currents.

Islanders living on the North Shore area whose properties have experienced storm surges and flooding in the past were warned to seek higher ground if possible, with the possibility for north-facing windows to blow in or for debris to break them.

The province plans to set up an online and telephone reporting tool so that, starting on Sunday, Islanders can report damage to critical infrastructure such as roads and bridges. Obstructed or damaged roads can be reported by calling 511 or these numbers, the province said in a release.

For information on what disruptions are being announced due to the storm, click here: Hurricane Fiona: What's open and closed on P.E.I.