While the East-West runway in Nome has been closed since Monday due to a settling subsurface that created a big dip, no work has yet been done on the runway. So far seven Alaska Airlines flights have been cancelled this week due to winds and weather and the stricter flight restrictions. And the backed up flights are exactly what is keeping the contractor from digging up the problem area on the runway. Some of the work crew trying to make it to Nome has been stuck in Anchorage due to flight cancellations. Twin Peaks Superintendent Doug Larson says the rest of the crew made it in on Alaska Airlines flight 151 this morning with the surveyors are expected to arrive on Alaska Airlines flight 152.
And as for the runway closure, Meadow Bailey is the Public Information Officer for the Department of Transportation’s Northern Region. She says the navigational aids for the East-West Runway were turned off on Monday and the runway was closed. The DOT is required to coordinate with the FAA 60 days in advance of turning off those navigational aids. And 60 days ago, Monday August 13 was the agreed upon date that the runway would be closed for construction.
Usually flights can come in with this kind of weather when they use the navigational aids. But once they’re turned off we have to wait to turn them back on until we’re done with the construction.
Twin Peaks Doug Larson says they will begin work on the runway this afternoon. Their plan is to rehabilitate the sunken part of the runway and then repave and stripe. That project is expected to be complete on October 1st and the East West runway will open then.
Some wonder why the DOT waited until August – Nome’s rainiest month – to work on the runway. The DOT’s Public Information Office Meadow Bailey:
This time of year is not ideal for construction, but this is as quickly as we could get the funding, the project designed and get it started. So we recognize it’s not the ideal time of year but we felt like it was such a concern that it needed to be addressed as soon as possible.
She says they needed to fix the problem now before winter hits.
But I know that its impacting the public and people who are flying and I wish it wasn’t like that. Unfortunately, like I said, it’s an emergency repair job that we just felt like it needed to be done as soon as possible. There was concern that we were going to have to close the runway indefinitely if we couldn’t make these repairs so that’s why it’s happening right now.
With seven Alaska Airlines flight cancellations and passengers facing waiting four days to travel, some have opted to go to smaller airlines. Bering Air’s Director of Operations David Olson says on Tuesday some people got together and chartered a 1900 to and from Anchorage. Because Era has daily service from Unalakleet to Anchorage, Era Station Manager Myrtle Fagerstrom says they’ve seen passengers walk across the parking lot to make it to Anchorage via Unalakleet.