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75,000 P.E.I. households still without power as utility pleads for public’s help

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About 75,000 Maritime Electric customers are still without power amid what the utility is calling “the largest restoration project” in the history of the company in the wake of post-tropical storm Fiona.

Maritime Electric spokesperson Kim Griffin said crews in the field who are trying to repair power lines have told her repeatedly that efforts would go more smoothly if people would stay off the roads unless necessary.

 “You have to stay away from the power lines,” she said.

That means staying off the streets unless you need to go out for food, fuel or other essential items, she said in a news briefing Monday.

“Otherwise, please stay home … I really need your help.”

Post-tropical storm Fiona hit P.E.I. in the early morning hours of Saturday, with heavy rain and winds over 170 km/h that knocked power out to more than 82,000 customers at its height. There have been reports of widespread damage to property, but no serious injuries to people.

Maritime Electric spokesperson Kim Griffin told Island Morning she could not give any estimates for when power might be restored fully. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

Griffin said she could not give a timeline on when power would be fully restored, but said Maritime Electric would be providing daily updates.

She said about 300 power poles throughout the province were damaged, and the utility’s priority will be essential services and areas with the largest number of customers.

Premier Dennis King, who also spoke at the briefing along with Public Safety Minister Darlene Compton and provincial emergency management co-ordinator Tanya Mullally, said the province would not order a state of emergency to keep people at home, but reiterated Maritime Electric’s plea to allow crews to work without obstruction.

More than 100 military members are working with provincial crews to remove felled trees and help Maritime Electric repair poles. 

“We have lots of boots on the ground and lots of people and groups offering to help,” King said.

Gas stations are operating in all three counties, he said, and more than 35 grocery stores are open. That’s in stark contrast to the state of the province on Sunday, when most essential services across the Island were unable to open.

Maritime Electric spokesperson Kim Griffin said Monday afternoon she still could not give any estimates for when power might be restored fully in the province. (CBC)

The province is providing a $5-million fund for non-profits and charity organizations to use to provide grocery and gas cards for those in need. It will also provide emergency, non-repayable assistance to individuals and businesses to help with uninsured losses.

Donations can also be made to the Canadian Red Cross.

Map showing outages in Summerside
The City of Summerside posted this map on its Facebook page. (City of Summerside)

Summerside Electric, serving P.E.I.’s second city, had restored power to the downtown, eastern areas and large sections of the north of town by Sunday night, and had made further progress by Monday morning.

It will still be days before some of the smaller outage areas are fixed, said  Greg Gaudet, director of municipal services for the City of Summerside.

No reopening date for schools

A drone picture showing damage to the Queen Charlotte Intermediate building in Charlottetown. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

Island schools will remain closed until at least Tuesday, with a further announcement set for that day.

King said at least six schools have received considerable damage, and the Department of Education is examining contingency plans.

He said six childcare centres were able to open Monday in order to allow essential workers to do their jobs.

Health P.E.I. confirmed Sunday afternoon power at Prince County Hospital and Queen Elizabeth Hospital had been restored. The rest were open, but running on generators. COVID-19 testing clinics will reopen Tuesday in Charlottetown, O’Leary and Montague. The Slemon Park clinic will remain closed due to structural damage.

‘Stay home or close by as much as you can,’ a statement from the province reads. ‘The best way to help crews and first responders is to stay off the roads as much as possible.’ (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

T3 Transit will be operating its Saturday service on Tuesday for the communities of Charlottetown, Cornwall and Stratford. There will be no service in Summerside or rural areas. Further updates will be announced Wednesday.

King thanked the many Islanders rallying together in the aftermath of the storm.

“It shouldn’t surprise us but it really is heartwarming,” he said.

“We will need your patience and understanding and togetherness in the days ahead.” 

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