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Kotzebue Ice Road Closes, Leaving Some Cars Stranded

Noorvik

Noorvik, AK. Photo: Lauren Frost/KNOM

After being open for a record high amount of consecutive days — around three weeks — the ice road that spans from Kotzebue to Noorvik and Kiana is closed. After a snowstorm Sunday, April 9th, several Kotzebue residents found their vehicles on the wrong side of the road.

On a trip to Noorvik, Kotzebue resident Frances Gage was stopped right outside of Noorvik after trying to get home.

Her husband Robin Gage had snowmachined out to the road upon hearing the news. “Some people were down there on the river right outside of Noorvik. And they stopped her and said, ‘don’t even go, don’t waste your time; it’s no good, it’s closed.’ And so, she never left Noorvik.”

As of April 10th, the city confirmed two vehicles are stuck on the Noorvik side of the ice road. Northwest Arctic Borough chief of staff Patrick Savok says the Borough has no intentions of opening up the road any further. “We do not have the any remaining funds to reopen the road,” he said. “And we are scrambling looking at our books to find whatever we can to at least save somewhat of an opening.”

Savok says those with stuck cars may have few options for getting their vehicles home.

“One (car) has already been brought back to Kotzebue with sleds by 2 or 4 snowmachines. (A second option) is the barging system when the waterways open.” Or, drivers may opt to “leave their vehicle up there until the next year’s ice road,” Savok says. “Some people have done this before in the past.”

He says making an ice road is costly. Aside from local donations, the Borough is given a $50,000 grant to help provide for car travel to Kotzebue. This year, the Borough reports it has already spent all existing funds.

In the meantime, Robin Gage says being one car down just means using the four wheeler. As of Tuesday, he plans to have a course of action soon.

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