Sunday, January 29, 2012

How Cold Is It? -- Part Two

Last winter I wrote a post describing how cold it was. Lord, I didn't know nothin'! That was merely a warm-up for this winter!

I used to believe I needed to experience -50 or colder, just once. You know, just so I would know what that felt like. I no longer hold this belief. Not only have I now experienced -50, I've experienced it multiple times. I'm hear to tell you, no one needs to experience that. No one.

You may have heard that Interior Alaska has been having quite the cold snap. -45 F has been a daily occurrence. This has been a frequent view on my phone weather app lately. 

I don't know why they bother to include "real feel" temperature. Everything below -20 is cold.  It should say, this is the temperature at which you feel like you have Black Lung.

Last week when in Galena I experienced -60. People, it's not good. Particularly when you're driving a van to school that is known to break down. A lot. There's a stretch of road on the way to the Galena school without houses along it. I'm terrified the van will break down and I'll be stuck waiting for someone to find me before my bones crystallize at -50. I drive very fast through that section.

School isn't cancelled in these temperatures but planes do not like to fly. I was lucky to leave Galena. All flights but mine were cancelled that day.
View of Galena and the Yukon as I was gleefully waving goodbye.
Look closely and you can see the runway lights.
When I arrived at the Fairbanks airport on my return from Galena, it took 15 minutes for the heater fan to come on in my car. And 30 minutes for the car to reach working condition. I turned the car on and went back inside the airport while I waited for it to heat up. I wasn't worried about someone stealing my car. The thing wouldn't move! I was barely able to open the doors! And at these temperatures the car tires freeze. They turn into square blocks until the air in the tires warm up. (Makes for an interesting ride down the expressway. At times it's so bumpy I feel that I need my sports bra!)

So yeah, go ahead. Steal my car. I'll laugh as I watch you go clumpity-clump down the road at 5 mph. I could probably chase the car down and climb in through the back since hatch door doesn't like to stay closed. It frequently pops loose as I'm driving. The rear dome light goes on scaring me to death because all I see is a flash of light in my rear view mirror.  

Ironically, the hatch door doesn't like to stay open either. Only I never realize this until I'm standing at the back of my car gathering groceries and I back up only to crack my head on the door that is slowly closing down on me. 

A dashboard light I had never seen before appeared last night as I was driving home from the North Pole in -50 weather. It said, "TPMS". According to the car manual it means the tire pressure monitoring system is no longer working. Once the tires warmed up the light went off. I subscribe to the belief system that everything is fine with my car as long as the lights stay off. Just like the time I rented a talking car in France. Yes, the car talked. In French. Despite having studied French for five years, I can only speak English with a French accent. I had no idea what the car was saying. I figured out that as long as the car didn't talk, everything was okay. I've transferred that philosophy to all car dealings in Alaska. So far it's working out.

I made the mistake the other night of thinking I could carry my luggage from the garage to my 2nd floor apartment without gloves. I couldn't. I hadn't even stepped out of the garage before I had to drop my bags, close the door and pull on my gloves. (The garage is heated to 59 degrees. A veritable sauna compared to -44!) At these negative temperatures It's not just your skin that starts to hurt when exposed to these temperatures. Soft tissue and bones ache to the point you feel as if you're being burned. Ironic considering a nice fire is what you're dreaming for at that moment.

And who knew that -40F is the same as -40C?  How is that possible?

Don't worry, no bears were harmed in the taking of these pictures.

Ice fog has been a frequent visitor as well here in the Tanana valley. Ice fog is particularly thick and visibility is reduced to zero. Between frozen square tires and zero visibility, it's astounding any of us get anywhere around town.

It has been so cold my front door locks freeze. I thaw them in the morning with my hair dryer so I can leave the apartment. I often don't lock my door when leaving because a) I can't. The locks won't turn and b) I'm scared I won't be able to get back in when I come home. One particularly cold night I wasn't sure I was going to be able to get inside my apartment. In a moment of pure panic over the possibility of being stuck outside, I rammed my shoulder into the door and it opened.

The cold can't keep us down though! Today I helped friends celebrate a baby shower over mimosa brunch. It was so cold that when I picked up the helium balloon decorations at the store, the balloons shriveled up as soon as I walked outside. As I saw them shrinking before my eyes I ran for the car yelling, "no, no, no!" As soon as they were enclosed in the warm car the balloons perked right back up.

Typically this time of year you can watch people snow machine on the Chena River while enjoying your mimosa brunch. Not today! If the snow machines were there I couldn't see them through the ice fog.This picture was taken after the fog lifted a bit.

In this cold I have no choice but to go to Crossfit. It's the only time I am truly warm!
 I love Crossfilt.  : )

The upside to all this cold is that the days are finally noticeably longer. Sunset is at 4:20 and it's not dark until 5:00. Spring is on its way!

Despite the cold, the scenery continues to be amazing. 

Ice sculpture at UAF

Meanwhile I'm popping Vitamin D like it's candy and using my Happy Light.

And the cats? Let's just say they are taking winter hibernation seriously.