Rough weather delays barge deliveries, leaving grocery shelves bare

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Grocery store shelves in Kodiak were bare this weekend after rough weather delayed food deliveries to the island, and an emergency cargo flight filled with provisions landed in Kodiak Sunday morning to help fill the gap.

Kodiak depends on barges to bring in everything from milk and meat to cereal and bread. The last barge delivery was nearly two weeks ago on Wednesday, February 22. 

Safeway on Mill Bay Road is the only large grocery store on the island. And store management expected the barge to bypass Kodiak after its last visit, with a resupply stop scheduled ahead of this past weekend. But snowstorms and gusty weather, including hurricane-force winds, scuttled those plans. 

“In my entire career, I’ve never seen two successive bypasses,” said Mike Murray, the store director of Kodiak’s Safeway.

He said with the exception of some nonperishable goods, the store had been nearly cleaned out by this weekend. 

“Frozen foods was catastrophic,” said Murray. “I have just a few bags of frozen vegetables and pizzas, etc. And then on into the dairy aisle where we ran out of milk, virtually all milk products, eggs, cheese, probably 85% of our yogurt, and 70% of our juice products.”

Safeway’s produce section was nearly cleaned out after rough weather delayed food shipments to the island; March 4, 2023. (Kirsten Dobroth/KMXT)

The store’s produce shelves were also nearly empty. The bread aisle took a big hit. So did the meat department. Several restaurant owners also posted in a popular community Facebook page that they were running low on supplies.

Management from Safeway and shipping company Matson chartered a C-130, a military transport plane, to fly in an emergency food delivery on Sunday morning. Kodiak-based Advantage Air Freight helped unload supplies once they landed.

Murray said they were able to source some provisions from the grocery chain’s Anchorage warehouses, but it took a boots-on-the-ground effort to get other products back to the island.

“Whatever milk or meat products we got was a handful of people in Anchorage going from store to store picking up what they could, what those stores could spare so that we could fill that airplane out,” he said.

Murray said it’s only a fraction of what they needed, and shelves were almost bare again Sunday night. The next barge is scheduled to arrive in Kodiak on Monday evening. Murray said if all goes according to plan, they’ll be fully restocked by next week. But the store should start looking more normal to the average shopper in the next few days.

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