PEI

In Eastern P.E.I., the post-Fiona era means waiting, wondering and helping

For many in Eastern Kings, P.E.I., the new normal involves trips to the gas station to fuel generators and to the local reception centre to take showers, charge devices, and pick up water to flush toilets.

'We're just waiting for a hookup, just like everybody else'

'Trying to get a hold of Maritime Electric is like pulling teeth out of a hen — it's next to impossible,' says Owen Greer, who has been without power for 11 days. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

For many in Eastern Kings, P.E.I., the new normal involves trips to the gas station to fuel generators and to the local reception centre to take showers, charge devices, and pick up water to flush toilets. 

Power has been restored to some people in the area, in the wake of post-tropical storm Fiona, but many could still face additional days without it.

For people like Owen Greer, the new routine is getting old. 

"Showering every three to four days…rationing out everything we have. We lost our freezer. We're still running the fridge but our generator will only keep one of them going," said Greer, who lives outside of Souris. 

He said the expenses are adding up quickly when you count food, gas for the generator, and bottled water. But what's bothering him most is that it's unclear how much longer he'll be living this way.

Three people gather for a hot coffee at the Eastern Kings Community Centre, where they've been able to use wifi and electricity while they continue without power.
Isobel Fitzpatrick, right, talks to Lee Fleury as he and his wife enjoy a hot drink and internet connectivity at the Eastern Kings Community Centre. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

"My frustration now is my neighbours to the south have power, my neighbours to the north have power, and three homes in the middle do not have power, and we don't have an explanation why," said Greer. 

We're just waiting for a hookup, just like everybody else. We're kind of at the end of the line.— Lee Fleury

Fellow area resident Lee Fleury also remains without power — but is pretty sure he knows why: Fiona tore the home's power mast right off the building. 

"We're just waiting for a hookup, just like everybody else," said Fleury, who lives in St. Catherine's. "We're kind of at the end of the line. We're a single service knock-down, so they told us it would probably be by this week."

From then to now, Fiona's historic hammering of Prince Edward Island

4 months ago
Duration 3:08
A look back at the initial moments of Fiona and the aftermath of what many have called the worst storm in Island history.

Fleury and his wife have been making regular trips to the Eastern Kings Community Centre, to use the internet and enjoy some hot coffee. He said it's been a huge help while they wait to get their power back. 

"It's an opportunity to get out and get away from the destruction of the storm and kind of, you know, feel a little bit better for a few hours while you're out here visiting."

'We can help you'

One of the centre's main volunteers is Isobel Fitzpatrick, the emergency management coordinator for the rural municipality of Eastern Kings. She said in the early days of the storm, about 50 people a day were stopping by for assistance. And some of those people wanted to see more power crews dispatched sooner to Eastern P.E.I.

Isobel Fitzpatrick, the emergency management coordinator for the municipality of Eastern Kings, says the reception centre saw 50 people a day in the initial period after the storm passed. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

"There are some people who question why we weren't seeing anything for so long, and it made them sad," said Fitzpatrick.

"They felt that nobody from the Charlottetown area, or the services that they were seeing in other areas, were out here. That nobody cared enough to come east."

She said for many in the area, the community's reception centre became a place to get help, and also to find community. 

"Coming here, we sort of put things in perspective that, you know, we can help you with the things you need right now," said Fitzpatrick. 

Now Fitzpatrick's team is moving to an on-demand model, for people in more remote parts of the area who could be without power for several more days. She said access to the centre will remain available until everyone is back on the grid. 

Swooping in to help

Meanwhile, a team of specialized disaster response volunteers called Team Rubicon is in the area to identify and offer at-home support to Islanders living on private or inaccessible roads. 

In collaboration with the provincial EMO, Team Rubicon has been doing reconnaissance in Eastern Kings, and helping with chainsaw work as well. 

Eric Goodwin is an incident management team chief with Team Rubicon, an organization made up of specialized disaster response volunteers. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

"We're slowly transitioning from clearing roads to actually helping residents," said Eric Goodwin, an incident management team chief with the organization. "So our priority here is to assist the most vulnerable in the community. And what that means is that we prioritize according to a person's physical, social and economic vulnerability."

He said Team Rubicon, made up of military veterans, first responders, and some civilian volunteers, is in the area to connect with residents and make sure they have everything they need now — and until power is restored. 

"These are more underserved communities that we're in now," said Goodwin. 

"We just want to ensure that these people here — who have done an amazing job helping one another — we want to ensure that no one falls through the cracks and no one's left behind."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jessica Doria-Brown

Videojournalist

Jessica Doria-Brown is a videojournalist with CBC in P.E.I. Originally from Toronto, Jessica has worked for CBC in Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, and Ontario.

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