More power out on Magdalen Islands

Extra ferries shuttle equipment from Prince Edward Island to the Magdalen Islands, as Hydro-Québec struggles to restore power after a weekend winter storm.

Magdalen Islands storm aid keeps P.E.I. port busy

Eight hundred more homes and businesses on the Magdalen Islands lost power Monday afternoon, leaving a total of 3,000 customers without electricity.  

Hydro-Québec blamed the latest outages on ice-laden and fallen power lines in Fatima on l'Île-du-Havre-aux-Maisons.  

It's unclear when power will be fully restored.

The utility said more than 150 Hydro-Québec workers arrived on Monday to begin repairs.

Hydro-Québec chartered two ferries with ice-breaking capabilities Monday to carry crews and supplies — including poles and generators — from the eastern Prince Edward Island port of Souris on Monday.

The first ship, which sailed early in the day, contained 20 utility trucks to do repairs and seven tractor-trailers loaded with replacement utility poles. The second ship was still being loaded on Monday afternoon.

Replacement poles and generators were shipped by ferry from the eastern P.E.I. port of Souris on Monday. (Courtesy of Ray Brow)

"On the tractor-trailers you got poles, you got … transformers. We have trailers with generators, loaders, everything that they need basically to help out with the works," said Steve Comeau, manager of the Souris ferry terminal.

Crews fought frigid temperatures and high winds as they loaded the boats, but Bernard Langford, captain of Le Voyageur, said the thick sea ice would make for smooth sailing.

Langford's crew understood the urgency of their sailing because all 23 of them live in the Magdalen Islands.

"It's really important because we don't have electricity," said Lizanne Lanteigne, the chief purser. "It's something that we wait for because we don't have electricity since yesterday and it will be a few days again. It will be like a rescue," she said.

Ferry managers said their ships will be available as long as it takes.

It's unclear when electricity will be fully restored to the estimated 3,000 customers who lost power. (Courtesy of Ray Brow)

High winds and freezing rain brought down 12 towers and 200 utility poles on Saturday night, and thousands have been without power since then.  

Environment Canada meteorologist René Héroux said Monday was the coldest day of the year so far for people on the archipelago. The wind chill made it feel like – 35 C.

"The Magdalen Islands seem to have really been hammered by this storm," said Souris Mayor David MacDonald.

Helena Burke, one of thousands on the islands without power, said she and her neighbours received an automated phone message from Hydro-Québec, but the utility was not able to tell them when power would be restored.

"I was actually living in Sherbrooke when the ice storm happened in 1998, and it just looks exactly the same," said Burke.

"The trees are all covered with ice and fallen. The hydro lines are just … the ice that's around them is incredible."

Burke has an oil stove that is keeping her house warm. She has taken in several family members who are also without power.

Power started going out around the islands at about 4 a.m. Sunday, and at the peak of the blackout 3,600 were without power, just under half of the utility's customers on the islands.

Firefighters and volunteers have gone door to door to make sure people are OK. Three emergency centres have been opened, but so far only a few dozen people have taken advantage of them.