Winter storm causes flight cancellations
A winter storm last Sunday with peak winds at 46 mph as reported by the National Weather Service, blanketed Nome with snow, but rising temperatures and wind-driven rain turned the snow into slush. The icy conditions and snow wreaked havoc on travel plans, causing flight cancellations and a delayed school start on Monday.
The Monday night flight from Anchorage to Nome turned around and landed in Bethel after almost making it to Nome. It then traveled to Kotzebue and back to Anchorage the same night.
Tuesday morning’s Horizon flight from Anchorage to Nome was also cancelled.
“We’ve had both a 737 and E175 aircraft cancel into Nome over the past three days,” Alaska Airlines spokesman Tim Thompson said on Tuesday. “This is due to a mix of weather and landing/takeoff requirements. We are working closely with DOT to make sure the runway meets those requirements, allowing us to safely operate our scheduled service.” Alaska Airlines sent an extra flight on Tuesday afternoon to move guests.
Department of Transportation Western District Superintendent Calvin Schaeffer said the newer, smaller airplanes require a different runway protocol. “That morning they wanted 100 feet wide, which is a new change to us and we couldn’t give it to them because we hadn’t been plowing our runways for that width,” Schaeffer told the Nugget.
There were no issues with the runway, not on Monday or any other day during the storm, he said. The lack of flights coming in were likely due to the pilot’s preference and the weather, Schaeffer said.
“They [Alaska Airlines] do like to blame the runway 99 percent of the time versus weather or pilots or other issues that come up,” Schaeffer said.
These flight cancellations meant that several events and meetings planned for Tuesday were postponed. The Nome Arts Council cancelled their event Monday night featuring Diyet and the Love Soldiers. Tuesday night’s Graphite One community meeting at Old St. Joe’s was postponed, along with the Teller and Brevig meeting dates.
On Monday, Nome Public Schools, Kawerak and Norton Sound Health Corporation all announced a one hour delayed start to their operations.
Bering Air cancelled all flights on Sunday and only flew to Gambell, Savoonga, Shaktoolik, Koyuk and Shishmaref on Monday. Tuesday flights operated as normal.
Monday trash collection was moved to Tuesday. “The wind was so bad we weren’t able to pick up residential,” Jamie North of Alaska Waste said. Commercial pick up occurred Monday and residential trash was picked up Tuesday.