Tanker carrying fuel arrives at iced-in AK town
The ice that has cut off a remote Alaska town for months will connect it to the world again as crews prepare to build a path over it to carry fuel from a Russian tanker that was moored roughly a half mile from the town’s harbor Sunday.
A Coast Guard cutter cleared a path through hundreds of miles of Bering Sea ice for the tanker as it made its way toward the town of 3,500 on Alaska’s western coastline, where residents are coping with their coldest winter since the 1970s.
The tanker got into position Saturday night, and ice disturbed by its journey had to freeze again so workers could create some sort of roadway across the 2,100 feet from tanker to the harbor in Nome, upon which they’ll rest a hose that will transfer 1.3 million gallons of fuel. It’ll take about four hours to lay the hose, said Jason evans, board chairman of the Sitnasuak Native Corp.
Workers on Sunday morning were walking around the vessel and checking the ice to make sure it is safe for the transfer.
A storm prevented Nome’s 3,500 residents from getting a fuel delivery by barge in November. Without the tanker delivery, supplies of diesel fuel, gasoline and home heating fuel Nome are expected to run out in March and April, well before a barge delivery again in late May or June.
The tanker began its journey from Russia in mid-December and has slowly made its way toward Nome, stalled by thick ice, strong ocean currents and one Alaska’s snowiest winters in memory. It picked up diesel fuel in South Korea, then headed to Dutch Harbor, Alaska, where it took on unleaded gasoline. Late Thursday, the vessels stopped offshore and began planning the transfer to Nome, more than 500 miles from Anchorage on Alaska’s west coast.
Now, residents await the final leg of the crew’s mission, which comes with its own hurdles: In addition to waiting for the ice to freeze, crews must begin the transfer in daylight, a state mandate. But Nome has just five hours of daylight this time of year.