Black Tickle ice still not safe to cross, as worry grows over heating oil reserves

Residents on the island community of Black Tickle are feeling more isolated than usual so far this January.

Resident says 2 people have already made run, but cautions water's still not completely frozen over

The sea ice near the island community of Black Tickle is still not frozen enough this year for safe passage by snowmobile to mainland Labrador, which is about four kilometres away. (mauriceabarry.wordpress.com)

Residents on the island community of Black Tickle are feeling more isolated than usual so far this January as they wait for the sea ice to freeze over so they can snowmobile to mainland Labrador for supplies.

The four-kilometre stretch of open water between the island and the mainland usually freezes in December, allowing Black Tickle residents to make trips to Cartwright, for heating oil that's no longer available to purchase on the island.

"Until that ice freezes there's no way off the island," said resident Jeffrey Keefe. "We don't have a gas station here anymore. There is stockpiled fuel and gas here in the town, but it only lasts so long."

Black Tickle residents rely on sea ice to travel to mainland Labrador to buy fuel and other supplies in Cartwright to tow back to the island.

The route to get to the mainland, known as "the run," was hardly frozen at all early this week.

By Thursday, it had started to freeze over and there are reports of least two snowmobilers who've travelled over the ice, but Keefe still doesn't think it's safe until a few more days of cold temperatures and low winds.

"You're probably looking at a week yet before you can get off, and that's only if conditions stay favourable," he said.

"The only way out now would be either airlift where there's no ice. Or the coast guard, or some other big boat like that."

Heating oil concerns

Most Black Tickle residents rely on heating oil to stay warm during the winter months, and the town stockpiles only 35 drums of fuel — one per household that burns fuel.

Each drum will keep a home warm for about 18 days during the depths of winter, which is why so many residents rely on the snowmobile route to Cartwright to resupply.

Keefe said it's not reasonable to expect people in Black Tickle to stockpile thousands of dollars worth of fuel each winter.

"In order to store that much fuel for the winter you've got to have the money up front," he said.

"Most people here are just working to get enough hours to get on their unemployment [insurance benefits] so to take every cent that you've made on fuel, something else has to get cut."

With files from Labrador Morning

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