Storm wallops eastern P.E.I. with snow, rain, high winds

Residents turn to community centre for warmth and food until power returns

Jim Day jday@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on November 28, 2016

Jarrod Vessey mans the bucket as Scott Lowther directs from below as the Maritime Electric workers deal with a broken hydro pole in Hazelbrook Monday. Sunday’s storm knocked down at least 100 poles and knocked out power to more than 12,000 customers.

©JIM DAY/TC MEDIA

MURRAY HARBOUR, P.E.I. - The lights went out with a bang. Loud thunder and bright lightning first caught the attention of Jennifer Butler, 28, of Abney around 3 p.m. Sunday.

Ninety minutes later, a storm packing snow and high winds started punishing Butler and thousands of other P.E.I. residents down east.

Butler’s usual five-minute drive home from her parents’ store in Murray Harbour took a good 30 minutes of navigating near white-out conditions and manoeuvring around downed trees that littered the road.

She finally arrived to a home that was without power.

Maritime Electric spokeswoman Kim Griffin says the storm hit the eastern part of Prince Edward Island with a vengeance.

Crews described the severity of weather and the level of damage down east as the worst they have seen in decades.

If you live in Charlottetown, you can’t imagine the amount of ice and snow and destruction (down east). Kim Griffin

 

 

Across the province, 100 poles toppled to the ground. Of those, 92 were in eastern P.E.I. with particularly heavy damage in Seven Mile Road, Launching, Guernsey Cove and St. Peters.

“Those are big numbers…it’s certainly a very significant storm,’’ says Griffin.

“If you live in Charlottetown, you can’t imagine the amount of ice and snow and destruction (down east).’’

She says high winds, wet snow and freezing rain combined for the “worst case scenario’’.

In one spot, 10 trees collapsed on the same stretch of wires.

Forty crews of two were out in full force repairing damage and starting the long process of restoring power.

Seven crews from New Brunswick are being put to work Tuesday in P.E.I.

“It’s just a testament to the damage,’’ notes Griffin.

Power was lost to about 12,400 customers overnight Sunday. As of early Monday evening, 4,400 customers were still without power.

Griffin cautioned that power might not be fully restored to all customers until Wednesday.

Roughly 100 area residents flocked to the generator-powered Murray Harbour Community Centre for warmth, food, socializing, as well as to gather water and to power cell phones.

Gary Herring, chairman of the village council, anticipated 30 to 50 people would spend Monday night at the community centre propped in a chair or lying on the floor.

Several Chinese and Mexican workers from the Beach Point Processing Company spent the better part of Monday at the community centre staying warm, playing Scrabble, chatting and preparing food.

Jamie MacKay, 43, of Abney says he is among roughly 200 people who would normally have been processing lobster at the Beach Point plant for 10 to 12 hours on Monday.

However, the power outage shut the plant down for at least that day.

“You want to get back to work as soon as you can, but you can’t control the weather,’’ he says.

MacKay says the temperature when he woke in his dark house Monday morning was 8 C. He planned to spend Monday night in his cold place again.

“I got my old sleeping bag out,’’ he says, as long as the temperature does not go too low.’’

Herring says the community is close knit and knows how to take care of its residents.

Donations came in to the community centre, including numerous loaves of bread from Butler’s Clover Farm in Murray Harbour.

Herring and others went door to door to homes where it was felt assistance might be needed.

Others with wood stoves invited neighbours in.

Herring also noted comfort in having three paramedics on the local fire department at the ready.

“It brings a good feeling,’’ says Herring.

“It is the community working together.’’

 

 

 

 

Workers from Beach Point Processing Plant, from left, Sunny Liu, Marie Lan and Selina Wang, prepare food at the Murray Harbour Community Centre. They were among roughly 100 people who turned to the centre on Monday for warmth, food and socializing as Sunday’s storm shut down power to many parts of eastern P.E.I.

©JIM DAY/TC MEDIA