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Fuel begins flowing into ice-bound Nome, Alaska

January 16, 2012 |  7:10 pm

 
Fuel began flowing into Nome, Alaska, just before sundown Monday, the final chapter in a dramatic mission to deliver 1.4 million gallons of winter fuel across 300 miles of icy seas to the ice-locked outpost on the Bering Sea.

After two days of carefully laying hose across the ice from where a Russian-flagged tanker was moored near the harbor, the pumps were turned on late Monday afternoon -- just before launch operations would have had to be delayed once again with the onset of nightfall.

"The fuel started flowing right about 5, so just about sunset -- just in the nick of time to make things very dramatic," Stacey Smith, spokeswoman for the fuel transport company Vitus Marine LLC, told The Times.

Alaska requires that such pumping begin in daylight, and Nome has just five hours of light this time of year. Now that the pumping has begun, the fuel can flow continuously. Vitus officials say the offload should take about 36 hours.

Nome, a town of 3,500, missed its regular winter fuel delivery as a result of a late autumn storm, and the onset of winter sea ice made normal delivery impossible.

The Russian tanker Renda launched a landmark journey earlier this month, accompanied by the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Healy, to make northern Alaska's first winter fuel delivery.

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