Gym mats become makeshift beds at shelter during power outage

Eric McCarthy
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LENNOX ISLAND -- Food and warmth were in short supply on Lennox Island during the power outage Monday and Tuesday. There is a store and gas station in the First Nation community but the owner was stranded on the other side of the Lennox Island causeway.

Meanwhile, the community had set up an emergency warming shelter in the gymnasium of the John J. Sark Memorial School, and over 30 people were preparing to spend the night there.

“I took Kraft Dinner and whatever I had in the cupboards,” Lennox Island chief Matilda Ramjattan said of the meal she cooked up to keep residents fed. “I just threw it together and firemen came to pick it up,”

The community’s emergency preparedness coordinator with the Mi’kmaq Confederacy of P.E.I., Tanya Augustine, said a call went out to P.E.I. Red Cross soon after the shelter was established seeking assistance with food, cots and blankets, but roads were closed. Once there was a break in the weather Monday evening, arrangements were made for Red Cross volunteers from Summerside to meet up with the Lennox Island fire department at the end of the Ellerslie Road to deliver food.

The 30 some residents who spent Monday night in the gymnasium made do on gym mats.

“Everybody was okay. There was plenty of food. There were cards and crib boards. People did really well,” Augustine reported.

On Tuesday evening, once the store re-opened, Augustine raided the store shelves so that people would have food for a second night at the shelter. Some time after 8 p.m. Tuesday, however, power was restored to Lennox Island and the shelter was closed. Only after it was closed, however, was it determined that residents of Oaapus Trail were without power again. Apparently, once power was restored, a generator feed power back into the line and blew a transformer. Residents along Oaapus Trail, including Augustine, were still without power early Tuesday afternoon.

Augustine said firemen checked up on the elderly twice a day during the storm. She estimated upwards to 80 people would have sought shelter in the gymnasium Tuesday night if power hadn’t been restored.  

Making memories

 There was also a warming shelter established at the Alberton Fire Hall. Councillor Natasha Dunn, who had just competed a Basic Emergency Management Course at Alberton Fire Hall on Sunday, returned to the fire hall on Monday afternoon and coordinated with Chief Tom Murphy the setting up of the shelter. The fire hall was already set up as an emergency shelter, complete with cots and blankets.

We’re actually kind of making memories for years to come; they’ll always remember that evening that we hung out in the fire hall Alberton resident Natasha Dunn whose family utilized Alberton's shelter

Dunn helped spread the word over facebook, confident even people without power would still get the message via their laptops and smartphones, or by phone from people who still had power. Numerous people dropped by for warmth and water throughout the afternoon and evening on Monday. Dunn and her three children as well as close to a dozen other people, spent the evening there. She described the experience as enjoyable. “We’re actually kind of making memories for years to come; they’ll always remember that evening that we hung out in the fire hall,” she commented. They left for home shortly after 10 p.m. after power was stored at their place. No one spent the night at the Alberton Fire hall. One person stopped by to cook his supper there, and people continued to drop by for water on Tuesday.

“It broke up the evening and we got to go out and socialize with other people and they got to charge their phones,” she said.

Laura Montigny, P.E.I. Red Cross Provincial Director said Red Cross has pre-positioned supplies in several Island communities, including Alberton for use in situations like the one Monday’s ice storm caused. She said Red Cross will certainly be looking at having provisions available in Lennox Island in the future.

Chief Ramjattan said the band council will also be taking a look at the bridge to her community to see what can be done to keep it from plugging with snow and isolating her community. “My concern is for the safety of people coming and going,” she said, noting that at one point on Tuesday about 10 vehicles were stranded on the bridge.

 

Organizations: Red Cross, John J. Sark Memorial School

Geographic location: Lennox Island, Summerside, Ellerslie Road

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