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Snow storm cuts Tangier Island off from the rest of the world

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Posted at 7:07 PM, Jan 31, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-01 07:47:03-05

Two words describe this week's weather on Tangier Island:  “Brutal, cold,” said one resident.

The same storm that iced our roads also iced the water around Tangier and snow covered the only runway. Since you can only reach the island by boat or air, that meant the 500 people on this island have been locked in, unable to get mail or groceries, and more important to the Tangiermen, unable to work.

“If you got a family, and you don`t work in a week, it gets kind of rough, you know,” says a resident.

The bay is their livelihood there.

Tangiermen call the cut through the island the creek. It's where watermen earn a living. But lately, it's been frozen.

Hurricane Sandy raises the dead on Tangier Island

Today, warmer temperatures softened it enough for some like Donald Thorne to try navigating it. He rocked his boat side-to-side to keep the ice from grabbing the hull. And a steel barge was able to push through. That means the 500 who live there might get their first mail delivery in nearly a week.

“That will be quite an event going to the post office. Everyone will be gathering there,” says Milton Parks.

Parks worked the waters there 60 years before retiring. He says it’s rare that the creek and bay freeze like this.

“Well, the water`s still frozen. It will be a while. Got to have some rain to get rid of that,” he says.

Today the runway was open for the first time since the storm. And we were the first plane to reach it. From the air you can see Tangier's frozen creek, and the sheets of ice meandering the east side of the island. The sun is softening the creek, and that's good, but it also means ice sheets from the bay are crowding into the docks.

Tangiermen say they had a good season, and for the most part, they can weather a week without work. But one way or another, they will soon need to be back on the bay.