A Russian tanker carrying 1.3 million gallons of oil products was in position Monday to begin delivering fuel to Nome, Alaska, isolated due to severe cold.
Workers prepared to lay piping and 4-inch hoses on newly frozen ice to transfer diesel fuel, gasoline and home-heating oil from the tanker Renda, moored about a half-mile from Nome's harbor, to a fuel-transit hookup at the Nome causeway.
"The first step is to ensure the ice is safe for the personnel to walk on," U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Kip Wadlow told CNN. "Then they will work to connect the piping and check for leaks. Safety is our primary concern."
Once delivery starts, the fuel was expected to flow through the hoses at about 35,000 gallons an hour, with delivery completed in 36 to 42 hours, Nome Harbormaster Joy Baker told The Nome Nugget.
The Coast Guard ice breaker cutter Healy, based in Seattle, had cleared a path through 300 miles of Bering Sea ice so the 370-foot tanker could reach the western Alaska city of nearly 3,600 on the southern Seward Peninsula coast on Norton Sound of the Bering Sea.
The voyage was the first attempt ever to supply fuel to an arctic Alaska settlement through sea ice, CNN said.
The Renda traveled about 5,000 miles to Nome from the Russian Pacific port city of Vladivostok, not far from Russia's borders with China and North Korea, the Coast Guard said.
Nome normally gets fuel by barge and was supposed to get a shipment in November. But a severe storm followed by a bitter cold snap flash-froze shipping lanes, preventing that, the Nugget said.
Temperatures were forecast to warm up to minus 15 degrees Fahrenheit Monday from minus 22 overnight, AccuWeather said. The area is suffering from its most severe winter in nearly 40 years.
Nome is not expected to run out of fuel for about 60 days, Coast Guard Capt. Craig Lloyd said. But the delivery was attempted now because it would likely be more difficult in March, he told CNN.
Officials had considered flying in the fuel, but it would have required more than 300 flights, each carrying 4,000 to 5,000 gallons, to meet city needs, Sitnasuak Native Corp. Chairman Jason Evans said.
It would have also added $2 to $4 a gallon, which he didn't want to pass on to customers, he told the Nugget.
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