Emmonak had no planes for days after breakup

by Angela Denning-Barnes on June 12, 2013

The breakup flood washed out Emmonak's airport taxiway. Photo by Shane Core.

The breakup flood washed out Emmonak’s airport taxiway. Photo by Shane Core.

Spring breakup caused major damage to some Interior villages on the Yukon River, like Galena, but the coastal community of Emmonak did not escape unscathed. The village’s taxiway at the airport was washed out from flooding that started June 4. Planes could still land but none could make it off the runway. Major cargo, like groceries, could not make it into the village until June 11.

The Department of Transportation was able to make temporary repairs starting on June 7 after the water receded.

Meadow Bailey is a spokesperson with the Alaska Department of Transportation.

“We worked with the supplies that we could find, so culverts and gravel, so that we could make these repairs, and essentially make a temporary, small road that goes between the taxi way and the runway,” Bailey says.

Workers fill the washed out taxiway. Photo by Shane Core.

Workers fill the washed out taxiway. Photo by Shane Core.

The temporary taxi way is too small for the largest planes to use. They can still land on the runway, but their supplies must be ferried over the taxi way. Bailey says DOT is working on a more permanent fix.

“It’s definitely not a perfect situation and it is inconvenient,” Bailey says.

The washout also took out the power to the runway lights and the navigation equipment that planes use to land in inclement weather. So, planes can only land when the weather is good. DOT is working with the Federal Aviation Administration and with Emmonak’s utility company to get the power restored. Bailey says they hope that happens by the end of this week.

“It’s not just a real simple fix for the electric,” Bailey says. “It will take a little bit and then all that stuff has to be tested by the FAA before it can be certified as open again for Nav-Aid landings.”

DOT created a temporary taxiway that most planes can use. Photo by Shane Core.

DOT created a temporary taxiway that most planes can use. Photo by Shane Core.


Even though supply planes were not able to land in Emmonak for several days, the local stores–the Emmonak Corporation Store and AC—both said they carry a backup supply of goods for these type of situations.

Shane Core, Emmonak’s AC Manager, said their shelves remained nearly full. They only ran out of a few items like lunch meat and yogurt.

A worker at the Emmonak Store said they also kept their shelves mostly full. Freight planes that started arriving to the village on Tuesday resupplied them with their most popular items like beverages.

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