Cold snap continues and worsens

Low temperatures in Fairbanks dip to 55 degrees below zero

Posted: Sunday, January 04, 2009

FAIRBANKS - Alaska's cold snap continues.

Friday was the sixth day of the worst cold snap to hit Interior Alaska in several years.

Temperatures dipped to 55 degrees below zero on Wednesday night. It was only 46 degrees below zero on Friday night in Fairbanks, and the mercury was continuing to slide down.

Alaska was cold all over on Saturday.

Frigid temperatures prevented the start of the U.S. Cross Country Ski Championships at Kincaid Park in Anchorage. Hundreds of competitors are entered in the event, including Anchorage's Kikkan Randall, a two-time Olympian and winner of the World Cup Race who is the best cross-country skier in America.

Race officials hoped the weather would warm enough to hold the event Sunday.

In Juneau, frozen pipes forced the closure of the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center for the next several days. Fire officials in that city also said heat tape wrapped around a water pipe was the cause of a fire that broke out in a basement ceiling of a Juneau residence. Damage to the home was estimated at $20,000.

The occupants were home at the time of the fire and there were no injuries reported.

Juneau fire officials said it was the fourth time they have been called out this winter to respond to fires begun because of heat tape.

But it is Interior Alaska that is truly in the deep freeze. Forecasters expect temperatures in Fairbanks this weekend will likely touch 50 below and there is no indication the cold wave will dissipate anytime soon.

"Aarrgh," is how Dee Born, owner of Homestead Pumping and Thawing in North Pole, put it while dealing with a waiting list that was about three days long. "As soon as it touched 50 below, the phones were ringing."

Friday marked the fifth day in the last six that the temperature at Fairbanks International Airport hit 40 below or colder.

"It's just not going anywhere," meteorologist Scott Berg said of the cold air mass centered over the eastern Interior. "Right now, we don't see anything happening before the end of next week."

Kathy Sporer at Alaska Best Plumbing and Heating said their emergency plumbing technician hadn't slept in two days.

"I've got people waiting to get boilers put in, too, but we can't put them in at this temperature because we have to shut the heat down for four to six hours to put them in and you can't take a chance doing that when it's this cold," she said.

Business at auto parts stores has also picked up.

"Battery (heating) pads, block heaters, gas de-icers, diesel anti-gel ... those are all good sellers right now," Dean Jazzo, general manager at the Gaffney Road NAPA auto parts store, said.

The store has seen a run on batteries, he said. Vehicle owners need to keep their batteries warm and charged to prevent freezing, Jazzo cautioned.

Dee Born, from Homestead Pumping and Thawing, was taking the cold in stride.

"It's Alaska, and we all live here by choice. You just hunker down and hang on."



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