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Runway repairs in Nome, like Bethel, limit air traffic

Suzanna CaldwellAlaska Dispatch News

Bethel isn't the only Western Alaska airport having difficulty getting planes in and out because of runway construction.

The Nome airport is also without its instrument landing system (ILS), which has been turned off as repairs are made to the airport's main runway.

A “soft spot” in the runway caused a dip, according to Alaska Department of Transportation spokeswoman Meadow Bailey. The airport closed the runway Aug. 13 for repairs.

Bailey said trying to complete a project so late in the season isn't ideal. But it was the best way to deal with the spot that would only grow larger and more hazardous. “It was our concern that we would need to indefinitely close a portion of the runway if the section was not repaired,” she wrote in an email.

While an alternate runway is being used, larger jets that rely on the ILS system can't land if fog, clouds or bad weather make a visual approach unsafe. The Nome Nugget reported seven Alaska Airlines flights have been canceled since the main runway closed.

Plus, the construction crew working on the project couldn't make it in from Anchorage on time because of bad weather, according to KNOM.

With fewer flights arriving, there have been delays in getting products into the coastal community of about 3,500 best known for its Gold Rush past and as the finish line of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. According to The Nome Nugget, groceries stores are out of fresh produce, mailboxes are empty and even the movie “Total Recall” couldn't make it to the local movie theater.

Cruise ship passengers felt the pinch, too. The only two cruise ships to arrive in Nome this season -- the German Hanseatic and ResidenSea's The World -- had to get either charter or private planes to shuttle passengers out of Nome.

Bailey said the construction project will cost $1.5 million. It is expected to be finished Oct. 1.

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