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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

What do we do when it's -50

This was snapped last Saturday night.   We were at the movies and I went out to start my car (out in the hall to start it with an autostart, not outside) 1/2 way through and checked the temp  I was just reading in the paper that this was the 5th coldest January in history with an average temperature of -26.9 degrees, 18 days -40 or colder and 9 of negative -30.  This was the coldest we got in Fairbanks, but other outlying areas hit -60 or colder.  And FYI the forecast on the picture lies, we remained at least -20-30 until this am, it has now warmed up to about -9 buy this evening. 

A reader asked what we do when it's this cold and do the kids still have school?  So for lack of anything else to post, I decided to make a post out of it.

Mostly life goes on as usual.  We still work, because it can be super cold for weeks.  Yes the kids still go to school.  School has only closed twice in the 13 years I've lived here, both were for freezing rain.  I think we may be the only place that closes for rain and never for snow or cold!  The biggest problems in the extreme cold is we get a layer of ice fog over the city, the colder it is the worse it is.  The coldest days were on Saturday and Sunday, and the ice fog was really severe.  I have heard that in the 70's the ice fog was so bad they did close schools, so maybe if it hadn't improved during the week they could have closed.   The theory is that parents will still need to go to work, leaving children home alone in potentially deadly weather conditions if they were to venture outside when they shouldn't, so it's generally considered safer to have them go.  When it's colder than -20, they do stay inside for recess.

Cars don't like this super cold.  I don't think I would drive long distances in it.  I've heard stories of people pumping gas in the -50 and the hose breaking over the weekend.  We have so many frozen cars waiting to be towed is a long wait.  Cars can freeze even though they are plugged with block, battery and oil pan heaters in cold like that.  Fan belts snap, hoses break, etc...  Both of our cars actually overheated in the -50, we think because the lines were freezing and not circulating like they should.   Homes and workplaces have outlets for their employees, but when you are out and about grocery shopping for example, there isn't a way to plug in.  When it was -50 we started the car about every 1-1.5 hours while we were out.  We did go to dinner and a movie to celebrate our anniversary and the restaurant was full.  So life just goes on.  

We burn wood and have an oil boiler.  However we did burn 250 gallons of oil in 2 weeks which is the most we've ever used, we are also going through much more firewood than usual (we also had a record setting cold spell in November too)  The house generally stays warm, and is very comfortable.  The dogs need to stay in a lot more and are constantly underfoot driving me crazy.  We kept the rabbits and chickens warm with just a heat lamp in their coop.  The coldest it got in there was 35 degrees. 

So that's what we do when it's -50 outside.  We also take tropical vacations, Hawaii is easy to get to and extremely popular destination for Alaskans in January and February.


  1. Wow! Kids still go out for recess when it's -20*! Amazing! I guess they come to school dressed really warmly. Our schools keep them in if it's below freezing (which is not that often during the day in NC).
    I often daydream about spending a few years in Alaska and experiencing a "real winter". I probably romanticize it since I have read many romance novels and watched many movies with Alaska as the setting.
    I just finished rereading "The Long Winter" by Laura Ingalls Wilder and it's hard for me to imagine how people live in such extreme temperatures. Thanks for telling us more about how you cope. :)

  2. Well I think that you have to be a real pioneer to be able to love and want to adapt to that. I admire you and the others there.

    How interesting is your life to read about. You still go to school. School stays open.

    I marvel at this story.


  3. I'm so glad that I saw your blog on Dara's facebook! I am still learning new things about living up here and was specifically wondering how much oil we went through during that cold week (I heard everything running all night). I'm glad that it finally warmed up so that cars can run and being outside is more pleasant!


  4. Adrienne! Glad you found the blog. Yep sure glad it warmed up. 29 degrees when I left work, it's practically tropical!