Official runaround on offering help to storm-tossed visitors

Dave Stewart
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N.B. visitor caught in vortex of help but ended up stranded anyway as officials declare everyone else responsible

Angela Veness of St. Martins, N.B., says she will think twice before vacationing on P.E.I. again.

Veness, 49, and a group of friends bought tickets to the Cavendish Beach Music Festival last fall and booked a tent site at Raceway Park in Oyster Bed Bridge, one of the sites associated with the festival.

They scrambled to seek shelter on Saturday as post tropical storm Arthur hammered the province, unable to make it through the night in a tent. Some who tented at Raceway Park found hotel rooms in Charlottetown.

Veness said the Comfort Inn in Charlottetown was booked but was helping tenters find other hotels. She said the Delta Prince Edward offered her a room at a substantial discount. Bob Boyle, who operates a seven-room hotel in Brackley, allowed his guests to take in others who were camping in tents.

By that time the storm was in full swing. Veness said she didn’t want to drive back to the city in that weather.

“We spent Saturday night sleeping in our cars,’’ Veness said Tuesday. “Many around us, their tents were completely destroyed and they had no shelter.’’

Veness spent the day calling a number of provincial government departments, asking why tenters were not offered shelter.

“We were looking for nothing other than a roof over our heads, not for communities to come and feed us. We were prepared with food. We weren’t looking for blankets, we brought that stuff with us. We just wanted shelter.’’

The province’s Office of Public Safety told The Guardian Tuesday that there is a graduated process for emergency management and response. Individuals, such as people, private businesses and corporations, are encouraged to take steps to prepare to sustain themselves and their families.

That graduated process indicates municipalities are expected to manage an emergency within its jurisdiction and if the demands exceed their capabilities, nearby communities may provide additional resources or personnel. The municipality also may request help from the Office of Public Safety.

This protocol also states that the province steps in when requested by local authorities.

“The province takes the safety of Islanders and its visitors very seriously,’’ a spokeswomen with public safety said in an email.

The P.E.I. branch of the Canadian Red Cross told The Guardian on Monday that a plan was in place but no request came from individuals or municipalities for help.

Kevin Power operates Raceway Park which was one of the sites people, who attended the festival, were able to set tents up.

“We got along quite well. We didn’t have a thing to worry about,’’ Power said Tuesday. “Mind you, I didn’t enjoy that weather.”

Power said his site never lost power and had a generator on hand to keep his facilities, such as restrooms, operating for the tenters.

Power said campers at Raceway Park seemed to be entertaining themselves and said that if anything did happen he had four security people on site who had medical training.

Tourism Minister Robert Henderson said once a weather warning is issued information is sent from the Office of Public Safety to all provincially-run and all private campground operators.

“We ask that they share the information with guests,’’ Henderson said. “At provincial campgrounds, we offer refunds to anyone who pre-booked nights they are not going to use because of weather.

“We direct anyone who does not want to camp, but wants to stay on the Island, to our visitor information centres where staff will happily assist them to find roofed accommodations (and) that was exactly the protocol we followed this weekend. We assisted dozens of visitors at locations across the Island.’’

Veness said no one reached out to her group.

“They did not check on people,’’ Veness said of Raceway Park. “They didn’t come through to see if we needed help with anything. A gentleman who was camping further down and had a travel trailer was going site to site checking on every single individual. He said ‘I don’t have much but if you need anything please come down or if you’re scared or you have no shelter. We’ll take in as many as we can’.

Veness said that job should have fallen to the province’s Office of Public Safety.

“I feel like the Island let people down. (P.E.I.) is know for its tourists . . . they were absolutely pathetic in their lack of care about what was happening to people in tents.’’

dstewart@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/DveStewart

Organizations: Office of Public Safety, The Guardian, Comfort Inn Canadian Red Cross

Geographic location: Raceway Park, P.E.I., Charlottetown Brackley Iceland

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Recent comments

  • Valerie
    July 09, 2014 - 21:50

    The storm was being forecast long before the weekend; perhaps this lady should have made alternate arrangements or stayed home.

  • andrew
    July 09, 2014 - 15:29

    lets have the whole island go over, Angela Veness of St. Martins, N.B will make sure her province is ready for 145000 more flood victoms we want free accomadation and cant drive more than 20 miles

  • Bob Boyle
    July 09, 2014 - 12:53

    Compassion people... This island has truly lost it's way if we have lost compassion. It cost very little if anything to open a local rink or hall to give someone safe shelter. We are not talk about the "Ritz " here, just a place to to lay you head for the night other than sleeping in your car. It does not matter what the reason is that someone need help they are our guests and should be shown compassion and respect. Whether you like it or not, everyone on PEI is in the tourist business. In this past weekend over $1,000,000.00 would have been taken in HST . All of that money goes to pay for our schools , Health care and roads. I guess if no-one wants to steep up I guess, I will need too the next something like this happen again. and rent a rink.

    • Sid Eudy
      July 09, 2014 - 18:05

      The question isn't about compassion or respect, it's whether it was an emergency situation or not. If citizens, such as yourself, want to open their doors or other doors to help people caught in a storm that is great and very thoughtful but government and/or other emergency services should not be involved unless it is an emergency situation. The campers who were here for the concert were not the only people camping on the Island this weekend, if they did it for this group of people what about the other people camping at other locales on the Island? Should the government have opened shelters for them also? This lady had options available to her and had more options and/or back up plans if they had prepared themselves adequately when it was first learned of a potential bad storm on the weekend.

  • sadislander
    July 09, 2014 - 12:16

    Just another opportunity for someone to complain.. Tourists aren't happy if it isn't the perfect weather they expect on PEI. Hello, we live on a little island, it's not a beach day everyday!

  • GiveMeABreak
    July 09, 2014 - 09:31

    “I feel like the Island let people down. (P.E.I.) is know for its tourists . . . they were absolutely pathetic in their lack of care about what was happening to people in tents.’’ What is really "pathetic" here is that the guardian entertains stories from whining tourists who don't have the sense to take heed of the weather forecast. Use your head, Angela or stop the whining! You were provided options, you chose not to take them and now you are complaining that the "Island" let you down? Stay home next year.

  • Jessica Connelly
    July 09, 2014 - 08:19

    Wow, talk about not taking responsibility for your own actions. You made your bed lady and it blew away, you had the opportunity to sleep in a lovely hotel 20 minutes away at a discounted rate and YOU chose not to. So you had to spend a miserable night in your car, very unfortunate. Maybe YOU will make better choices the next time a post tropical storm is forecast for the dates in which you plan to TENT!!!

  • Warnings !!!
    July 09, 2014 - 08:01

    I don't see why your complaining. You could of had other arrangements made; as this weather and warning were out for over a week. So why blame PEI gov't. They are not to blame; as we get the warnings and prepare ourselves for what's coming. You turned down a room that was giving you a discount, what more do you want ??????? You should of known that tenting in this weather was bad. I realize that you got your tickets for the CBMF in advance, but you could of also made other arrangements.

  • Looking4realnews
    July 09, 2014 - 07:57

    Why is this news? “We were looking for nothing other than a roof over our heads... We just wanted shelter.’’ YOU WERE OFFERED SHELTER AND TURNED IT DOWN! My opologies that PEI didn't build a hotel closer to you, but you are the one who chose to go camping during a Tropical Storm. We knew we were going to get hit with this weather for 3 days prior. Don't blame PEI or its people for your own stupid decisions.

  • jerry
    July 09, 2014 - 07:55

    So if I decide to go camping on the banks of the St John River next April, despite New Brunswick govt warning 1-2 weeks beforehand that it will flood, should I expect New Brunswick to hold my hand and look after me????? Get real!

  • andrew
    July 09, 2014 - 06:17

    i don't blame teenagers for being out in the storm they have no fear. a 49 year old who knows a storm is comming should know better .complains that it is everyone else's fault sounds like a spoiled teenager . she just wanted free accommodation.when she goes home to st martins she should call her gov officials and see what plan they have in place.

  • Lou
    July 09, 2014 - 05:48

    I don't understand what her problem is. She had a choice to stay in a hotel 20 mins away at a reduced rate but chose not to use it and then complains that no one was looking out for her after making that choice? She says she was just looking for shelter but there was shelter and she made the choice not to use it.

  • You made the decision
    July 09, 2014 - 05:43

    You made the decision to stay at a place thats not even a camp ground..........you made the decision ...........are you telling me you never heard all week that this storm was coming? You knew the storm was coming and YOU made the decision to tent even thou YOU knew there was a storm coming! You live with the decisions you make stop looking for the Island to compensate you....YOU MADE THE DECISION!

  • Island guy
    July 09, 2014 - 04:44

    Just another example of a person who takes no responsibility for their own decisions and actions. Everyone else is to blame for poor decisions (ie opting to tent when the forecasted storm was known for a number of days).

  • Ann
    July 09, 2014 - 00:00

    What exactly did this woman think would happen to her tent when the severe weather that had been forecasted for days in advance, actually arrived??? Did she take the normal, responsible, adult steps to create a back-up plan for when (not if surely) their tent failed? The Department of Public Safety has better things to do in a large storm then chase after grown people who refused to take the proper precautions. They are helping people in trouble despite taking proper precautions. This woman had a car so she could have left at any point. She had a phone and did not contact Red Cross even! As the saying goes lady, the Lord helps those who help themselves.

  • Quelle Surprise
    July 08, 2014 - 22:58

    Perhaps camping in a nylon tent in a post tropical storm (that was forecast days in advance) is not such a good idea after all. Who knew?

  • don
    July 08, 2014 - 22:47

    Veness you knew the storm was coming and it was well anounced on the radio and even emnails from the weather networks to your cell phones. i will agree some of the people in the powers to be screwed up the emo screwed up but that is the management. but how dare you blame the people of this island. do you think NB is so great stay then if you never come back it is no lose. many people done there best to help people with tents.

  • Robin
    July 08, 2014 - 22:33

    Is this lady for real?? Hahaha. She choose to come to our Island for an outdoor concert and stay in a tent with a tropical storm on the way. And was offered accommodations at a reduced price and didn't take them?? What did she do all day Saturday? The concert grounds were closed... She should have been looking for somewhere dry to stay the night. Unreal,

  • justin
    July 08, 2014 - 22:18

    Another complainer who the media likes to listen to. Funny how taking personal responsibility is something no one want s to do anymore. If this girl is typical of the tourists who come for the concert lets hope her and people like her stay away next year.

  • bad weather?
    July 08, 2014 - 21:52

    Bad weather? It was windy. Not like it was a blizzard or white out conditions. Just someone wanting to complain. There were warnings about a tropical storm for a week prior so its your problem. Don't come back for all we care if your just gonna complain.

  • Lisa
    July 08, 2014 - 21:51

    Nicely said Island Girl!

  • GuyWithBrain
    July 08, 2014 - 21:01

    I'm sorry Angela, but you were warned. The weather stations, radio stations and even the government warned people who were attending the festival of the possible outcome. You had the ability to avoid this entire situation if you just used common sense and either took shelter beforehand or didn't go at all. It was your choice to stay there, it was your choice to ignore the forcasted weather, it was your choice to look at what happened to the entirety of the the American East Coast and not think that maybe it could happen here. Don't blame the government for your own stupidity, you'll just be brushed under the rug along with the rest...

  • agree with island girl
    July 08, 2014 - 20:44

    Unsure why anyone would find themselves scrambling at the last minute over a storm that we were given 5 days notice about. When travelling out of province with an intent to tent should come with a back up plan. Especially with notice. Our island and it's officials didn't let you down - your lack of planning ahead did.

  • patrick
    July 08, 2014 - 20:41

    "Please come play on our Island, but for gods sake don't look for any help!!!"

    • huh
      July 09, 2014 - 09:33

      Help was there, as stated in the story.

  • Island Girl
    July 08, 2014 - 20:30

    It is not like the weather stations weren't warning people of this storm long before it hit. Too bad if you spent a hundreds of dollars on tickets to a concert festival that turned out to be a big bust. Sure you had to sleep in your car, at least you were dry. There were hotels 20 minutes from where you were staying that you could have gone to. I was out and about (for work...nurses don't get "storm days"). It was slow going, but if you took your time you could get from one place to another. Don't bring the government into this. This was a decision YOU made to come to the Island during this storm. YOU were the one who decided to sleep in your vehicle instead of driving to a drier place. Do I feel bad for you? Yes, I sure do. For being stuck in a place not so favourable during a storm, for wasting your money on a bust of a concert, but I do not appreciate your taking our beautiful Island and dragging it through the mud because of a decision you made.

    • Island Girl 1
      July 08, 2014 - 20:39

      I totally agree with previous comment .

    • Chris W
      July 08, 2014 - 20:40

      Because all tourists listen to local radio stations. It's simple. CBMF put profit ahead of the risks. If conditions were serious enough, they should have cancelled like Stanfest.

    • sickofthewhining
      July 08, 2014 - 21:23

      its called a weather forecast. watch it. pay attention to it. bad weather...stay away. stop whining.

    • Summer Nights
      July 09, 2014 - 08:16

      Mindful people, who go travelling and intend to camp out, pay attention to weather forecasts. It's just one of those adult, responsible, intelligent, critical thinking kind of things one learns to do as one matures. The weather on Saturday was blustery, windy, and sunny. PEI got very little rain from this storm. There was lots of time for this visitor to our island to find and accept alternate accommodation. Wanting someone to come find her and offer her help on a platter is pretty well just thinking that she's 'entitled' to special treatment. Emergency personnel had much more important things to respond to than someone who wanted to insist on staying in a tent during a tropical storm.