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18,000 Maritime Electric customers still without power 10 days after Fiona

Monday, October 3rd 2022, 12:00 pm - Hospital emergency department short staffed, wait times more than 10 hours

As the 10th day after post-tropical storm Fiona dawns on P.E.I. life is in some ways returning to normal — but about 18,000 Maritime Electric customers are waking up without electricity, meaning no light, heat, hot water, poor internet connections, and for some, no running water either.

With an average of 2.3 Islanders per household, that comes to more than 40,000 people still in the dark.

The province is making efforts to return to normal. Most schools will reopen Monday, along with the University of Prince Edward Island and Holland College, and the provincial civil service was called back to work on Thursday.

But for those without electricity getting ready for work will be more of a struggle than usual.

CBC: Power restoration following storm Fiona on PEI

SEE ALSO: Canada's October outlook: Slow slide or freefall into colder weather?

The weather has been mostly mild since Fiona hit the Island on Sept. 24, tearing up trees and devastating the power grid. That has reduced potential problems for Islanders who can't run their furnaces without electricity, but temperatures fell below the freezing point overnight Sunday, and another frost advisory is in effect for Monday night.

Maritime Electric has 216 crews from across the country — from as far away as B.C. and Newfoundland — working to restore power on Monday.

The visiting crews have been thrilled by the friendly greetings from Islanders, said Maritime Electric spokesperson Kim Griffin, but she also said those greetings can sometimes slow the work down.

WATCH: The devastating consequences behind 'stalling' hurricanes

"Even a beeping horn sometimes can distract people," said Griffin.

"Our crews are feeling the intensity and the stress that they want to get the power on. They're absolutely maniacal about getting it back on."

Griffin expects the remaining communities and neighbourhoods will be powered up by the end of day Tuesday, at which time the company will turn its attention to individual outages.

If the mast that connects electricity to a home is damaged, it's the homeowners' responsibility to get it fixed by contacting an electrician.

WATCH: Days after Fiona recovery still seems a long way off

RELATED: Fiona unveils quirky finds on the beaches of P.E.I.

ER short-staffed

Islanders are being told to expect longer than normal wait times at the emergency department of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown. At 6:40 a.m. AT Monday, Health P.E.I. was reporting a wait time of more than 10 hours for urgent cases.

Health P.E.I. says staff are feeling the impacts of Fiona, and there is still more absenteeism than normal due to COVID-19. Operating room nurses are being offered double time in some cases to work in the emergency department.

WATCH: Trudeau takes a firsthand look at Fiona's devastation in Port aux Basques

"We're all dealing with the same situation that everybody else in the general public is dealing with," said Mike MacDonald, acting associate director of clinician nursing.

"Some folks have suffered, you know, damage to their houses, property, those kinds of things. And so we're asking staff to come in and work and support Islanders and yet still deal with their own situations at home. So it has been stressful on staff."

People without urgent needs are being told to avoid the emergency department, but MacDonald said the emergency room would not shut down completely despite the staffing issues.

CBC: While trees are being cleared away the damage remains with contractors hard to find. (Louise Martin/CBC) While trees are being cleared away the damage remains with contractors hard to find. (Louise Martin/CBC)

Cruise visits cancelled

P.E.I. businesses that rely on cruise ships during the shoulder season — particularly on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic, which was disastrous for the tourism industry — have been hit hard by cancellations.

Sixteen cruise ships have cancelled their visits since Fiona hit, representing about 55,000 visitors.

"It's the two busiest weeks of our season," said Port Charlottetown CEO Mike Cochrane.

While it is difficult for the industry, Cochrane said they are aware of the difficulties many Islanders are facing without any electricity for more than a week. While he is keen to see ships return, Port Charlottetown does not want to put pressure on already stretched resources.

"We just are thinking of everyone who is, you know, without power and trying to get power restored," he said.

Even if ships can't dock this week, he does hope the four-cruise-ship day booked for Sunday will happen.

National Park closures

CBC: A boardwalk to nowhere: The waves broke off the rest of this structure leading to the beach at Stanhope. (Shane Hennessey/CBC) A boardwalk to nowhere: The waves broke off the rest of this structure leading to the beach at Stanhope. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)

Most of P.E.I. National Park is closed for cleanup after Fiona.

Officials issued another notice Sunday pleading with people to stay out of areas where restoration work is happening.

The work is dangerous for bystanders, officials warned, with tree felling and the use of heavy equipment. Crews need space to do the work safely.

The story was originally published for CBC News. It contains files from Island Morning.

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