Tuk road a headache

by Ian Elliot
Northern News Services

TUKTOYAKTUK (Feb 13/98) - Ice roads, as they are built on a fluid surface, can be a headache, but the road to Tuktoyaktuk is being particularly temperamental this year.

The road has reopened after being shut down early last week due to major cracking in the ocean sections about 160 kilometres north of Inuvik and is quickly regaining strength. Those cracks, combined with a large pressure crack running parallel to the road, forced crews to reroute the road onto safer ice for about 10 kilometres.

A pressure crack usually forms in the area each year, but rarely does so as violently as this year. It was so large, it sounded like a cannon going off and caused mobile homes in Tuk to shake when it formed one evening last week. Some residents there feared the road could close entirely.

The latest problem with the road, which was a month late going in due to warm weather and overflows, occurred when a dump truck was swallowed during construction.

Gurdev Jagpal of the territorial transport ministry says the weather is making the road more changeable than usual.

"This year, we've had more problems," he said late last week.

Over the last couple of weeks, temperatures have swung from better than -40 C to about -10 C, and the warmer temperatures make the road more active than usual -- at very cold temperatures, an ice road pretty much just sits there. "The temperature fluctuations have a lot to do with it," he said.