PEI communities hustle to protect citizens and infrastructure alike

  • CBC News will have special coverage of the arrival of Hurricane Fiona starting Friday at 8 pm AT on CBC Radio One with updates every hour, on the hour, with Cassie Williams in Halifax until 10 pm and CBC PEI’s Wayne Thibodeau through the night. We will also have digital updates throughout the weekend. A special extended version of Atlantic Tonight on Saturday at 7p.m. and Sunday at 6 pm will include complete coverage of Hurricane Fiona and the aftermath from around the region.

As Hurricane Fiona bears down on Atlantic Canada, PEI communities are taking steps to protect their citizens and infrastructure – and the mayor of Charlottetown says he is “praying that we get through this like we did other hurricanes.”

Mayor Philip Brown, speaking to Mitch Cormier of CBC’s Island Morningsaid staff have learned much from past tropical storm systems.

“We’re in the same position this time to take care of the citizens of Charlottetown and make sure the infrastructure is secure.”

How to prepare for a storm like Fiona

Officials are urging people in Atlantic Canada in the path of Hurricane Fiona to make emergency preparations, including having enough food and water on hand for several days.

In response to questions about what actions might be taken to safeguard the city’s homeless population after the storm passes, Brown said that is only part of what is concerning officials right now.

“We have a population of almost 40,000 people that we have to be looking out for,” he said. “We have to look at everything that protects all citizens and the homeless situation will be part of that plan.”

Provincial officials said earlier this week that people who have been living in about five encampments around Charlottetown will be offered shelter at the Jack Blanchard Family Center on Pond Street during the storm – but that respite will end on Sunday, at this point.

Charlottetown Mayor Philip Brown, shown in a file photo from February, says port cities have escalated concerns when hurricanes approach. (Brittany Spencer / CBC)

“Those plans will evolve as this situation rolls through,” Brown told Cormier.

“We’re not going to let them leave the shelter if there’s ground that’s soaked with water and not available to set up a tent. We will assess the situation as we go along.”

Asked about remaining infrastructure worries as Fiona approaches, Brown said he is thinking about what might happen with the excavation work as an old wooden culvert on Beach Grove Road is being replaced – “That’s a concern” – and the St. Peters Road roundabout project.

With respect to the exposed waterfront at Victoria Park, he said: “The floating dock is still in the water. We’re looking at the possibility of getting it out sometime today.”

The floating dock at Victoria Park in Charlottetown should be taken out at some point today, says Mayor Philip Brown. (Jane Robertson / CBC)

City residents should be signing up for notifications from the Charlottetown Alerts system, Brown said.

And he asked that while people should not be contacting the city at the height of the storm for minor issues, “If you’re in danger or anyone in your home is in danger, call, make that call.”

Summerside prepared, says mayor

As for PEI’s second city, “the main concern is to make sure that there are no injuries and we’re there to support the people if we get certain calls,” Summerside Mayor Basil Stewart told CBC News.

“If there are people caught in situations with no housing because of it, we have got arrangements made for that.”

Stewart said the city has a lot of construction projects underway, and he expects contractors will be on top of efforts to secure materials and prevent damage.

Summerside Mayor Basil Stewart, shown in a photo from August, says keeping residents safe and sheltered is his main concern. (Kate McKenna / CBC)

“We know that sometimes things can fall out of the sky you can’t see coming, but we’re prepared,” he added.

As for storm surge concerns, Stewart referred to past storms that Summerside has weathered.

“A couple of times we had water up over the wharf and some problems created, but we have staff in place to deal with that if it happens, and we’ll just have to wait and see how it unfolds.”

Citizens, boats and harbors

Elsewhere on Prince Edward Island, other communities are also gearing up their emergency planning.

Man hammers nails into boards over window of a house.
With Environment Canada warning that the force of the wind could be strong enough to shatter windows at the storm’s height, some Islanders have decided to board up their most vulnerable panes. (Steve Bruce / CBC)

At Abegweit First Nation, Emergency Management Office manager Gordo Bernard says his team has been working since Monday to secure its tuna fishing boats in Morell and Red Head Harbor. Work at a construction site in Scotchfort has also been put on hold.

Bernard told CBC News that elders who don’t want to leave their homes during the height of the storm can ask to have someone from the health team come to them.

They will go around and do checks on the elders, anywhere from half an hour to an hour intervals all day and night.– Gordo Bernard

“Depending on the severity of the storm, they will go around and do checks on the elders, anywhere from half an hour to an hour intervals all day and night, and make sure that they have anything and everything they need,” he said.

“We also operate a warming station in the community, so they’re more than welcome. We always invite them out to the warming stations because we have backup generators for a few of our buildings in the community.”

At North Lake in northeastern PEI, almost all of the fishing boats are now out of the water and on boat stands, where they should be safe from Fiona. (Submitted by Sheila Easton)

Sheila Eastman, manager at the North Lake Harbor Authority, expects nearly all of the boats to be out of the North Lake harbor before the storm begins.

“It’s going to be a long, long blow and… the winds are going to be quite high. So it’s going to be very interesting come Sunday morning,” she said.

Around the Island, other harbor authorities are also encouraging boat owners to get the vessels out of the water, although some may choose to ride out the storm with extra ropes attached to their moorings.

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