Weather strands hundreds in Alaska town for days

BETHEL, Alaska (AP) — Hundreds of passengers, many from coastal villages, have been stranded in the Alaska town of Bethel during the holidays because of bad weather and ill-equipped airports.

Minnie Tunutmoak has been stuck in Bethel for nearly a week, KYUK reported. She’s been coming to the Grant Aviation Terminal most days to try to catch a flight back to Scammon Bay where she lives.

“I was supposed to cook everything, turkey and everything, for Christmas,” she said. She missed family time and her children, she said.

Dan Knesek, vice president of operations for Grant Aviation, the primary air carrier in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, said one reason people are stranded is because many villages don’t have up-to-date navigation and weather tools.

If the visibility is low, the pilot needs to land using navigation instruments. If the airport doesn’t have them, the plane can’t land.

Warm, wet weather in the past few weeks has melted the ice on rivers and lakes, removing travel by snowmobile as an option. This December has been the rainiest on record in Bethel, and unseasonably warm.