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Fuel tanker arrives in cut-off Alaska town

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- The ice that has cut off a remote Alaska town for months will connect it to the world again when crews build a path over it to carry fuel from a Russian tanker that was moored a half-mile from the town's harbor yesterday morning.

Workers were waiting for disturbed ice to freeze again so they could create a sort of roadway across the 2,100 feet from tanker to the harbor in Nome, upon which they'll rest a hose that will transfer 1.3 million gallons of fuel.

A storm prevented Nome's 3,500 residents from getting a fuel delivery by barge in November. Without the tanker delivery, supplies of diesel fuel, gasoline and home heating fuel in Nome are expected to run out in March and April, well before a barge delivery again in late May or June.

The tanker began its journey from Russia in mid-December and has slowly made, stalled by thick ice, strong ocean currents and one of Alaska's snowiest winters in memory. It picked up diesel fuel in South Korea, then headed to Dutch Harbor, Alaska, where it took on unleaded gasoline. Late Thursday, the vessel stopped offshore and began planning the transfer to Nome, more than 500 miles from Anchorage on Alaska's west coast.

A Coast Guard cutter cleared a path through hundreds of miles of Bering Sea ice for the tanker.

Now, residents await the journey's final leg, which comes with its own hurdles: In addition to waiting for the ice to freeze, crews must begin the transfer in daylight, a state mandate. But Nome has just five hours of daylight this time of year.

"It's kind of like a football game. We're on the 5-yard line and we just want to work into the goal line," said Sitnasuak Native Corp. board chairman Jason Evans, whose hometown is Nome. Sitnasuak provides fuel and other services to the region. -- AP

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