Thousands still in the dark as most P.E.I. schools reopen 10 days after Fiona
Many Islanders are back to school or work 10 days after post-tropical storm Fiona hit Prince Edward Island on Sept. 23, but thousands of Maritime Electric customers still do not have power.
As of 6:30 p.m. Monday, more than 15,700 customers did not have electricity, according to the Maritime Electric outage map. That number is down from about 82,000 the day after the storm ravaged the Island.
The communities of Charlottetown, Cornwall and Stratford continue to see the highest number of outages.
During a news conference Monday, a spokesperson for Maritime Electric estimated over 95 per cent of communities will have power back online by the middle of this week, but said about 10,000 customers will have to wait longer.
Kim Griffin says once community restoration happens, crews will start working on individual customers.
“I assure you, we will be reassigning these crews to help within these smaller outages and individual outages,” Griffin said. “These crews are coming your way.”
She says severe damage to power infrastructure is delaying restoration times, in some cases, because crews have to rebuild power poles instead of just reconnecting wires.
Griffin estimates it's taking about twice as long to restore outages following Fiona, compared to Hurricane Dorian in 2019.
There are 216 crews from British Columbia, Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador, along with private contractors working to restore power on P.E.I., says Griffin.
“We have the largest restore team in our company’s history working to get the job done,” she said.
Most public schools on the Island reopened Monday, along with Holland College and the University of Prince Edward Island.
However, storm damage is preventing some schools from opening, and forcing others to adapt.
The province says students from Cardigan Consolidated will resume classes Wednesday, but in a temporary location within Montague Regional High School.
At École Évangéline, classes are being relocated to L'Exposition Agricole et le Festival Acadien grounds. A start date has yet to be announced.
Students at Montague Regional High School and Parkdale Elementary are set to go back to class Tuesday.
The province has not said when the following schools will reopen:
- Donagh Regional
- Prince Street Elementary
- Queen Charlotte Intermediate
- St. Jean Elementary
- West Kent Elementary
The PEI School Food Program is set to resume Monday. The province says, in the areas where schools are not operational, program workers will distribute the meals to local community reception centres.
With many different conditions on P.E.I. roads, streets and sidewalks, the province is asking parents to check their child’s walking route to school or to their bus stop to ensure they can get there safely.
The provincial government is also asking Island commuters to keep a few rules in mind:
- Stay away from downed power lines and poles as more and more electrical infrastructure comes back online.
- Keep a safe and respectful distance from all recovery crews, so that work can be completed in a safe and diligent manner.
- Avoid playgrounds and other facilities that are closed due to storm damage.
- Take extra care when crossing roads because some traffic lights are still not operational.
A Canadian Red Cross spokesperson says 5,000 of the 14,300 Island households that have registered, and have been approved, for provincial assistance of $250 per household will receive money by the end of Monday via electronic transfer.
Bill Lawlor says more people will receive approval in the coming days, but noted the Red Cross needs to verify the applicants before the money is handed out.
“We need to validate they are who they say they are,” said Lawlor. “We must ensure we have every cheque and balance done before we start issuing money.”
In partnership with the Construction Association of P.E.I., the provincial government is creating a database of Islanders needing help to repair their homes, Premier Dennis King said during Monday’s news conference.
King says the database will be used to pair residents with contractors who are able to do the work.
“We’re trying to play matchmaker for lack of a better explanation,” said King.
Contractors looking to help can reach out to the construction association, he said, and Islanders looking to get on the list can call 902-370-4327 (HELP).
The P.E.I. government has compiled a list of about 30 reception centres open across the island. This list has contact information for each centre, its address and the services offered there.
The province has partnered with private land owners to open debris pits for Islanders to get rid of fallen trees, branches and brush. A full map of these sites is available here.
The government says those who need help cutting fallen trees on their property or moving large debris to the curbside can call 1-833-734-1873 or any Access PEI Location to have their name put on a list for assistance. They can also email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The government says it has received 1,600 web applications for the service, 2,250 by phone call and 500 by email.
The province says debris removal will start once the demand for road clearing and cleanup efforts has reduced.
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