Monday, January 28, 2013

Cold, cold weekend

All of the talk around here for a few days has been about the cold snap we're having, and the subsequent issues it's causing. Until now this has been a freakishly warm January. When people start to complain I remind them that this is January in Fairbanks, this is normal. Friday morning I walked to work in temps around -27 and it was just dropping from there. By the time I was going home it was more like -35 and still dropping. I think I frostbit my left ear a little bit because of my earrings. Usually I keep my hat low enough and my scarf high enough that it's never been a problem, but my poor ear was red and swollen when I got home. I didn't even feel it. If your ear gets that painfully cold you'd think you'd notice somehow. This morning, I remembered and put my earrings in my pocket before leaving for work.
Places hit -50 and colder over the weekend, or very close to it. The ice fog is incredible, and even places which are usually above the temperature inversion have ice fog and seriously cold temperatures. Worse, at those temperatures cars won't start, or have a lot of trouble doing so, and even if you do get it to start there are other problems. Locks ice up and you can't get doors open. Little parts become brittle and break easily. Tires, from resting on the ground, get flat on the bottom and it takes several bumpy miles before they round out again.
So as you can imagine, it was a rather quiet weekend. I got most of the reading done for my class and even managed to get the vacuuming done on Saturday. (A girl can only take so much and our carpets were gross so I'm glad I did that. When I think of how much I had to throw away and clean off the filter at the end I still make a yucky face.) I read a book for fun and we even spent lots of time playing board games with a few friends on two different nights. Many of our friends just stayed home all weekend in deference to the cold.
We didn't. Stay home, that is. Did I mention that Shane is taking five classes this semester? Four of them are difficult, including physics and calculus. Blech. I do not envy him. He found most of the textbooks online, and the physics book is being held at the main campus library for limited checkout times. We bundled ourselves and the dog up one afternoon and trekked up to the library so that he could scan and then email the necessary pages to himself. I put on so many layers that I stayed remarkably warm. (Thick longjohns, my flannel lined Carhartts, two pairs of thick and tall socks, including my sweater socks, boots, wool shirt, fleece jacket, down coat, hat, scarf long enough to wrap around my head twice, a pair of gloves, and a pair of mittens. Whew!) Even the dog got a double layer of coats put on her. I crocheted a pretty crappy jacket for her a while ago, and then because it was crappy I went ahead and bought one for her. However, the one I bought doesn't have any protection for her belly, which the one I made does. So she wore two coats and four booties and at the library we had a few minutes to warm up in the arctic entry while Shane was inside. (We checked her over when we got home and she was still warm, even her belly.) My favorite moment of the whole adventure was seeing my dog run into the glass, thinking that she could get into the library. She's a sweetheart, but she's not the brightest. She was anxious that Shane was where she couldn't see him so for the most part we walked around outside and waited for him, going back into the arctic entry to stay warm every few minutes.
On Saturday night, Shane made another batch of beer. A friend we haven't seen in a long time came over to play games and hang out so we were all in the cozy, warm kitchen area. Starting a new batch of beer requires a lot of cooking so the stove kept the room very toasty. In fact, it was so toasty that we could fully see just how bad the back door to our place is. There was steam being created inside the house from an air leak around the back door. We've known for a long time that that door is terrible (our landlord really got swindled, since it's supposed to be a great door, made by an Alaskan company, but it's been nothing but trouble) but I don't think we'd ever before seen just how bad it really is. Tired of the visible reminder of just how much heat we're throwing out into the cold I finally decided that it was time to tack some curtains over the door. I wanted, earlier in the winter, to get a dowel and some sort of cheap holding system so that we wouldn't have to put a bunch of holes in the walls but I never got around to it. Instead, we used some small nails and tacked two curtains over the doorway. It's not much, but I can tell that it is having some effect in blocking out the cold. Unfortunately, it's also just blocking out the light. Oh well. I'll probably end up taking them down again after the cold snap ends, and perhaps next time I'm at Fred's I'll remember to get the things I want to hold up the curtains. It doesn't have to be anything big, I'll probably just get a long dowel and some sticky hooks.
The worst thing about the cold, for me, is that it's so dry right now. And, of course, we decided to turn off our humidifier. Why? Because it's moldy. I don't know how it happened, but there's mold living in the bottom of our humidifier and we're guessing it's probably not good to toss that in the air and breathe it in. We're trying to figure out if it would be worth cleaning it out (it's from the 70s and we probably couldn't find the new filters and such that it would need) or just buying a new one. Probably, we will grab the Sears gift card someone gave us a while ago and just buy a new one, which will certainly be smaller and almost certainly more efficient anyway. (This thing is BEASTLY--but we got it for free from my in-laws so I'm not really complaining.) Without a humidifier for now, we're left with drier and drier skin. I'm starting to feel like a raisin. Every time I wash my hands I have to coat them with lotion. Every shower takes twice as long not because I'm spending any more time under the water, but because my skin needs a protective layer of lotion put on afterwards. Even my eyes feel drier. We're all noticeably more thirsty, even the pets, and the poor animals are itchy with their dry skin.
Today, even my office, on a hill, isn't immune from the cold and ice fog. Usually I can look forward to breathing slightly better air up here but not today. The thermometer, usually a bit warmer because it's right next to a window, is reading -30. The official temperature as of writing, with the sun up, is -47. Brr! Stay warm, Fairbanksters!

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