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Stormy weather canceled flights to Dillingham, leaving some passengers waiting days in Anchorage

Downtown Dillingham 2.18.JPG
Izzy Ross/KDLG
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Dillingham was hit with a barrage of wintry weather, including snow, rain and fog. Feb. 18, 2022.

Dillingham has experienced wild weather over the past week — snow, rain, ice and thick fog.

That weather canceled flights for many people looking to travel to and from the community.

Alaska Airlines is the only commercial airline that flies from Dillingham to Anchorage. It operates its passenger flights in partnership with Horizon Air.

Only three of the airline’s flights from Anchorage made it to Dillingham within the last week — on Saturday, Monday, and this afternoon.

In all, Alaska Airlines canceled seven passenger flights since Feb. 14. On Friday, a flight attempted to land in Dillingham three times before turning around.

Ani White was among the those caught up in the cancellations. She works with the Curyung Tribal Council and was traveling home from a vacation in Hawai’i last week. She arrived in Anchorage after flying all night, but her connecting flight to Dillingham was canceled. So she tried again the next day.

“We flew out to Dillingham, tried to land twice, went back to Anchorage," she said. "So the next day we came back out and did the same thing — tried twice and then didn't make it. And at that point, there was a big group of us that had been trying and so we're just like, ‘Oh, come on, we got to make it! We got to make it!’”

The saga wasn’t over.

The next day, on Friday, Alaska Airlines added an additional flight in the morning. White said they flew to Dillingham but had to turn around. She was on the afternoon flight that day, too. It tried to land — but couldn’t.

“At that point, I was just exhausted and shuttling back and forth to the airport for days,” she said.

A passenger plane was finally able to land in Dillingham on Saturday. But White wasn’t on that flight.

“A lot of people were going back and forth between hotels or staying with family," she said. "I was able to stay with family, and they were able to bring me back and forth to the airport. But I know a couple families that were just staying in the airport. So it was crazy, to say the least.”

White finally made it back to Dillingham on Monday — a week later than planned.

Alaska Airlines spokesperson Tim Thompson confirmed in an email on Friday that weather has been a factor in trying to get flights into the community.

“We apologize to our guests for the travel delays and will make sure they are re-accommodated on the next available flight," he said.

He said a freighter was able to land on Feb. 15.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Virginia Rux said low clouds hung over the area last week.

"Some of those go below certain thresholds that some aircraft can land in or take off in," she said. "And there was a lot of different precipitation types.”

Snow transitioned to freezing rain last week, and that was followed by rain and freezing fog, which meant days of low visibility.

The clouds lifted today. But Rux said the low-pressure systems will likely bring more clouds to the Bristol Bay area over the next week.

Contact the author at izzy@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200.

Izzy Ross is the news director at KDLG, the NPR member station in Dillingham. She reports, edits, and hosts stories from around the Bristol Bay region, and collaborates with other radio stations across the state.