High school basketball tournament, dance team trip canceled after weekend travel disruptions

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Many travelers are still trying to get home after a major winter storm slammed the Lower 48 and disrupted travel across the country over the weekend. Ferries and flights to and from Kodiak Island were also delayed – leading to a ripple of other cancellations. 

Kodiak’s Joe Floyd Christmas Tournament brings high school basketball teams from across the state to the island each year, but by Monday afternoon, the Kodiak Island Borough School District announced that this year’s tournament was canceled. Teams just couldn’t make it in. 

Kodiak’s Benny Benson Airport on Dec. 27, 2022 after days of storms and canceled flights. (Kirsten Dobroth/KMXT)

And by Monday evening, the Kodiak High School Dance Team announced it had canceled its trip to Tampa, Florida. The team had been slated to perform in the halftime show for this year’s ReliaQuest Bowl college football game, scheduled for Monday, Jan. 2.

“It’s extremely disappointing. We’ve been working hard for this since August,” said Sarah Nugent, the team’s coach.

Nugent says the team was able to get rescheduled on a flight out of Kodiak later this week, but it wouldn’t have given them enough time to practice on the stadium stage – if they even made it at all.

“If we had any cancellation or delay on any leg of our trip we might not even be able to make the performance,” said Nugent.

Nugent said while the weather is out of their control, not being able to make the halftime performance is a huge disappointment for the dance team. They’ve pushed back this trip for three years now because of the pandemic. 

“You know, life is full of ups and downs and how we handle those ups and downs, it allows us to develop our character and allows us to become stronger people,” she said.

A popular Kodiak community Facebook group was filled with posts from fellow travelers trying to figure out how to get on and off the island. 

Kodiak resident Sadie Vargo organized a charter flight to and from Anchorage for stranded travelers. She said she and her husband were waiting for a crew member to arrive in town ahead of Kodiak’s upcoming tanner crab season, which starts in mid-January.

“It seemed like the best option because it seemed like there were so many people who were desperate to get back to Kodiak and we were desperate to get our crew member here to start gear work,” said Vargo.

Vargo said at least 20 people asked her about getting a seat on the plane; she even started a waitlist.

This weekend’s storm canceled thousands of flights across the country. A spokesperson for Alaska Airlines said via email that bad weather caused 30 flight cancellations on Friday in Alaska alone. Many of the ongoing delays are because crew and planes aren’t in the right place to fly their scheduled routes.

And airlines weren’t the only ones dealing with weather woes – sailings of the Tustumena were also canceled over the holiday weekend. The Tusty is the only Alaska Marine Highway System ferry that currently services the Kodiak archipelago. A storm warning for both the east and west sides of Kodiak Island was issued late last week with seas of up to 30 feet in the forecast.

Meanwhile, the Kodiak High School Dance Team –  including the team’s lone graduating senior – has been rescheduled to perform at next year’s game. Nugent said it doesn’t take away from all the work they’ve already put in for this year’s performance.

“I’m really proud of this team,” she said. “And I’m really thankful to our Kodiak community, they’ve gone above and beyond, you know, to help us with our fundraising and supporting our program.”

She said the team is planning an exhibition to showcase their game day choreography for the community at a later date.

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