Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut July 26, 2016 - 8:30 am

Torrential rains, fog disrupt Baffin food shipments

Nunavut’s two big retailers say they’re used to flight cancellations

Bare shelves: Here’s the bread section at Arctic Ventures in Iqaluit last week. (PHOTO BY THOMAS ROHNER)
Bare shelves: Here’s the bread section at Arctic Ventures in Iqaluit last week. (PHOTO BY THOMAS ROHNER)

It was a sad weekend for bread-lovers in Iqaluit July 23 and July 24: there was barely a single slice of bread to be found at the grocery stores.

That’s because the record-breaking soggy weather that recently soaked south Baffin did more than just flood rivers and shut down roads in Iqaluit.

The weather also led to dozens of flight cancellations.

These in turn affected the air delivery of bread, fresh produce and other perishable items to grocery stores throughout Baffin Island.

But representatives from the two biggest grocery store chains in Nunavut — the North West Co. and Arctic Co-operatives Ltd. — told Nunatsiaq News July 25 that the impact to customers has been minimal despite the bad weather.

“This is nothing new to us, we run into this almost every month,” Jim Jones, manager at Arctic Ventures Marketplace, said July 25.

Ventures, an independent subsidiary of Arctic Co-operatives Ltd., uses the same cargo jets to fly in perishables as the co-op stores around the island, Jones explained.

“This weather was a little worse than normal for summertime, but we have plans in place to deal with this kind of thing,” he said.

Those plans are in place to ensure customers don’t pay higher prices when weather-related disruptions do occur, Jones said.

“It’s more of an operational or logistics thing… And of course it’s more of an inconvenience to our customers when we’re out of something,” he said.

Derek Reimer, a media representative with the North West Co., said July 25 that a charter flight carrying over 100,000 pounds of food — mostly perishable — scheduled to land in Iqaluit July 21 didn’t land until July 25.

“Iqaluit is a staging point, so if we can’t get the flight to land then obviously we can’t get our products further up island,” Reimer said.

The charter flight was one of 10 North West Co. flights that couldn’t land in Iqaluit between July 3 and July 24 because of bad weather, Reimer said.

Seven of those flights were from Ottawa and three from Winnipeg.

More than 60 flights from Iqaluit to other Baffin communities carrying North West Co. products were also grounded during that time period, Reimer said.

But like Arctic Co-ops, the North West Co. has plans in place to deal with short-term weather disruptions, said Reimer.

“I think the bigger issue is more for the [airline] carriers: are there systems that could be implemented or improvements that would enable them to have more reliable service and minimize disruptions?” Reimer asked.

“That would reduce shipping costs for everyone in the long term.”

Reimer said a Government of Nunavut 20-year infrastructure needs assessment, released in 2014, identified an aircraft landing assistance technology that might help reduce weather disruptions.

That system, called a Localizer Performance with Vertical, or LPV, guidance system, uses GPS for more precise landings in certain kinds of bad weather like low-lying fog.

“That type of technology could improve the ability to work through these weather disruptions,” Reimer said.

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