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Hundreds turn to warming shelters across P.E.I. in wake of power outages

Power company crews repair poles on a stretch of road near Charlottetown Thursday November 29, 2018 as a major storm hits the provionce. Five poles were downed on this short stretch of road as winds gusting to 100 km/h hit. The storm also brought snow and rain and has knocked power out to more than 40,000 Maritime Electric customers as of mid-afternoon. High tides and surf is causing damage along the north shore of the province. -Brian McInnis/Special to The Guardian
Power company crews repair poles on a stretch of road near Charlottetown Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018 as a major storm hits the province. Five poles were downed on this short stretch of road as winds gusting to 100 km/h hit. -Brian McInnis/Special to The Guardian

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - Tens of thousands of people endured the inconvenience and discomfort of wide-spread power outages in P.E.I. this week.

Hundreds, however, sought temporary comfort in one of 17 warming shelters that opened across the province.

Some made a short visit just to charge a phone or laptop. Others stayed for hours, enjoying hot food and friendly company.

“The mood was good…people were just glad to have a nice place to come and warm up and have coffee,’’ says Shari MacDonald, the secretary of Miltonvale Park Community Hall, where almost 40 people dropped in between 1:30 p.m. and midnight Thursday.

“It was nice to be with people where it was warm.’’

MacDonald, who is also CAO of Miltonvale Park, was touched by the sense of community.

One couple came to the community hall and cooked “really yummy fish and carrots and turnips’’ for all on hand to enjoy.


Restoring power

  • At one point on Thursday, all of Maritime Electric’s 80,000 or so customers were without power.
  • As of 5 p.m. Friday, more than 7,000 were still without power.
  • Maritime Electric says hundreds could still be without power into Sunday. “It’s really slow going,’’ says Kim Griffin, spokeswoman with the public utility.

Stratford Town Centre drew about 150 people between 3 p.m. and 9:45 p.m., serving as a warming centre for local residents who were without power.

Some stayed for a couple of hours. Others were content with a much shorter reprieve from a dark, cool home.

Children played in the large gymnasium. Adults enjoyed conversation.

“It was a really nice atmosphere,’’ says Wendy Watts, community engagement co-ordinator with the Town of Stratford.

“Everything was very positive. People were very appreciative of having a place to warm up and charge their electronics.’’

The Cornwall Civic Centre had a short but eventful run as a warming centre, opening from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursday.

More than 50 people made their way in over the three hours.

Board games and cards were put to entertaining use. Plenty of activities kept children amused. A wide variety of music was played.

“It was really quite fun, actually,’’ says Shelley McKenna, events co-ordinator with the Town of Cornwall.

“It was really such an interesting time…given the circumstances.’’


The following locations have warming centres:

  • Kingston Legion
  • Kinkora Community Centre
  • Alberton Firehall (8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday)
  • Mount Stewart Community Centre (2:30 to 9 p.m.)
  • O'Leary Fire Department
  • John J. Sark Memorial School in Lennox Island
  • Summerside Credit Union Place
  • Belfast Rec Centre (opens 7 a.m. Saturday)
  • Wellington Fire Hall (opens 9 a.m. Saturday)

McKenna says some newcomers from Mexico welcomed the opportunity to escape the indoor cold of their temporarily powerless home.

“They were extremely appreciative…such a great atmosphere,’’ says McKenna.

Only 30 or so people made their way Thursday to Charlottetown’s two warming spots – the Hillsborough and West Royalty community centres, where hot coffee and treats were served. One person, though, stayed the night, says Charlottetown Fire Chief Randy MacDonald.

MacDonald adds staff from the city’s public works department made the rounds checking on seniors in apartments around Charlottetown.

Nobody required assistance, he notes, but the seniors were appreciative of the check-in.

In Summerside, a little over a dozen people made their way to the fire hall that was open from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. as a warming centre.

People stayed, on average, for 45 minutes to an hour.

“Everybody was in good spirits – happy to have a place to come to charge their phones and warm up a little bit,’’ says Gordon MacFarlane, deputy CAO of Summerside.

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