How would you handle -59 degrees? The Denali State Bank sign along Chena Pump Road in Fairbanks, Alaska, reflects the frigid temperatures that enveloped the interior of the state Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017. (Eric Engman/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner via AP/AP Photo/Dan Joling)
How would you handle -59 degrees?
Lexile

Cynthia Erickson woke up early, hoping her four furnaces were working.
 
She owns a grocery store and the building that houses the post office in the village of Tanana, Alaska, which ranked as the coldest place in the state on Jan. 18. The official temperature at the airport with a single gravel runway was minus 54 degrees. Nearby, along the Yukon River, it was 5 degrees colder.
 
"Fifty-nine below on Front Street in Tanana, Alaska," she said, laughing. "It's just miserable. I hate everybody who lives in a warm place."
 
A cold snap gripping interior Alaska is bothering even longtime residents such as Erickson, and she didn't see a customer until 25 minutes after she opened her store, where the furnace was operating despite the cold.
 
"I'm good because I watch the temperatures and prepare in advance," she said. "Last week I got my stock in; I'm good. I'm not a last-minuter. Living your whole life in Alaska for 53 years, you've got to think ahead."
 
Planes were not flying in the village 130 miles west of Fairbanks, which is Alaska's second-largest city. The cold also kept cars off the road, Erickson said. People instead were walking, bundled up like the little brother in the movie "A Christmas Story."
 
She's hoping for a break in the weather, perhaps a balmy minus 20.
 
"I want to leave," she said. "My teeth are frozen to my lips."
 
A very cold, low pressure trough moved into Alaska from Siberia, said Christopher Cox, lead meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Fairbanks.
 
"The western Interior has been experiencing the 40s and 50s below for the last couple of days," he said. "Here in Fairbanks, we've had some clouds that protect us. The clouds parted yesterday afternoon and the temperatures have plummeted."
 
Fairbanks International Airport reached minus 50 Wednesday, the first time since Jan. 29, 2012, Cox said.
 
The city craves clouds when it gets so cold and from November through January, Cox said, sunlight has virtually no effect on temperatures. Clouds, however, provide an insulating layer reflecting back heat generated by the Earth's crust.
 
"Think of it as a blanket," Cox said. "If you have no clouds, there's nothing to stop that radiation from escaping to outer space."
 
Last winter, the low in Fairbanks never reached minus 30, but that's not typical because Fairbanks averages 11 to 12 days of temperatures that reach 40 below zero or colder, Cox said.
 
Schools operated as usual. Children enjoy recess outside until it hits minus 20, according to Fairbanks school district policy.
 
"If it's 19 below, they go out," Lori Kunz, school secretary at Denali Elementary. Attendance dropped Jan. 18, when recess inside was the plan, Kunz said.
 
The extreme cold takes a toll on cars and water pipes. Tires flatten on the bottom, leading to a bumpy ride until they snap back into shape. Changing a tire, and spinning a metal lug nut, can frostbite a bare finger. If a furnace fails, water pipes can freeze and then burst when they're thawed.
 
In Tanana, Erickson said, propane turned into a gel in the cold, making cooking stoves impossible to use. People were shopping at her grocery store for items they could cook on woodstoves. But most people had water because of heating cable or tape on water lines, she said.
 
Tanana also has been blessed with abundant snow.
 
"That really helps with the insulation," Erickson said. "Everybody banks their houses. It helps with pipes, water lines and fuel lines."
 
The mental wear and tear may be the worst part. Erickson said she had to look at summer pictures of boats, blueberries and kids swimming to help her make it through the day.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why do people stay in Alaska when it is so cold?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (80)
  • jahir-orv
    2/01/2017 - 01:11 p.m.

    because you would freeze do death because of the cold temperatures. Because "people" have COMMON SENSE.

  • hjake-dav
    2/01/2017 - 04:07 p.m.

    In response to this article, I'm surprised. Kids, parents, schools, and shops operate normally in this kind of weather.
    In South Carolina, we rarely get below 50 degrees, and it's very interesting how the climate varies in each state.

    • evanl3-hei
      2/03/2017 - 10:24 a.m.

      I agree with you because i dont see why kids go to school in that weather and i dont understand why shops are open

      • adjoaa-hei
        2/03/2017 - 12:07 p.m.

        I think that stores should open because how would people eat if they can go and buy food.

    • adjoaa-hei
      2/03/2017 - 12:06 p.m.

      I know right because in Alaska its rarely warm to swim or travel.

  • gmatthew-dav
    2/01/2017 - 10:11 p.m.

    I read the article how would you handle -59 degrees and I liked it told good information about what cold would do to machinery in such extreme cold. My first piece of evidence is "Tires flatten on the bottom, leading to a bumpy ride until they snap back into shape" this shows how much a toll the extreme cold takes on the cars. My second piece of evidence is" propane turned into a gel in the cold, making cooking stoves impossible to use" this also shows how much a toll extreme cold takes on a simple piece of equipment such as propane and stove." My third piece of evidence is "If a furnace fails, water pipes can freeze and then burst when they're thawed" this also shows how much toll and abuse machinery takes in the extreme cold. In conclusion the extreme cold takes a toll on a number of systems including stoves, cars, and pipes and this article helps shows just how powerful this cold can be.

  • ochristina-dav
    2/02/2017 - 04:35 p.m.

    In response to "How would you handle -59 degrees," I honestly think that I wouldn't be able to last long in weather like that because over here it is usually around the 70s, which is fairly cool weather. To add on to that, I think I would not last long without heat, microwaves, cars, etc, because I'm so used to those everyday tools/feelings. Evidence that they don't have that up in Fairbanks and that it is freezing is, "The extreme cold takes a toll on cars and water pipes. Tires flatten on the bottom, leading to a bumpy ride until they snap back into shape." A piece of evidence to my statement saying that they probably did not have microwaves is, "People were shopping at her grocery store for items they could cook on woodstoves." Overall, I think their might be more reasons on why I would not want to live there, but there is also a thing that I would always be happy to see: snow, despite the cold.

  • bkyle-dav
    2/02/2017 - 05:08 p.m.

    In response to "How would you handle -59 degrees?," I would not want to live in Alaska were it is -59 degrees because that's pretty freezing. One reason I would not want to live in Alaska is that even though it has not snowed in South Carolina for some time, I do not think it is worth it to live in -59 degrees , just to play in the snow and have snow and other stuff. Another reason is that in the beginning of the article, it said that when Cynthia Erickson woke, she hoped that her four furnaces were working, FOUR FURNACES. If she has four furnaces, then it must be really cold in Alaska. A third reason is I bet the traffic would also be awful because the metal would freeze and the car, bike, or other type of transport would stop working and if you even touched the metal, you would instantly get frostbite. Even though I really like snow and would love to have snow ball fights, I think I prefer to stay in warm weather.
    _______________________.

  • hlindsay-dav
    2/02/2017 - 06:41 p.m.

    In response to "How would you handle negative 59," I agree that the weather is extremely harsh in Alaska. One reason I agree is that in the article it states that Erickson was hoping for a break in weather with -20 degrees. Another reason is that kids still go outside even when it is -19 degrees. It says in the article "Alaska, which ranked as the coldest place in the state on Jan. 18. The official temperature at the airport with a single gravel runway was minus 54 degrees. Nearby, along the Yukon River, it was 5 degrees colder." South Carolina is extremely lucky with our weather. It might be 30 degrees, where it is -54 in Alaska. A third reason is it gets so cold that propane turns into a gel, so nobody can use their stoves.This causes people to use wood-stoves. Even though everyone talks about how cold it is, where in Alaska -20 degrees is warm, I think people should appreciate the weather we have.

  • rlillian-dav
    2/02/2017 - 07:17 p.m.

    I found the article, "How Would You Handle -59 Degrees," very interesting because I would not think the weather could be that cold in parts of the world that are not on the other side of the globe. I also would think that clouds would be a bad thing, since sunlight could not shine, but I was wrong. Clouds are actually a good thing. The article says, "The city craves clouds when it gets so cold and from November through January, Cox said, sunlight has virtually no effect on temperatures. Clouds, however, provide an insulating layer reflecting back heat generated by the Earth's crust." This lets the reader know that residents actually want cloud coverage.

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