Life At Negative 78 Degrees In Alaska

It has been unusually cold in Alaska for about 10 days now. It was 78 degrees below zero Thursday in the tiny community of Tok, in the eastern part of the state.

Aliza Sherman Risdahl, her husband Greg and their 2-year-old daughter moved to Tok two weeks ago — just in time to watch the thermometer's needle disappear.

"The needle goes as far as minus 60," she tells Noah Adams, explaining that they got the reading of -78 degrees Fahrenheit from a wider-ranging thermometer at a national wildlife refuge.

Such extreme temperatures have made daily tasks in life, like driving, rather complicated.

"It can be dangerous," Risdahl says. "In fact I've been trying to drive into town, but as you drive, you can feel your steering wheel freeze up. And then you can feel your brakes freeze up. Sometimes, you can even get the condensation inside the window turning into hard ice.

"All of the vehicles here ... have engine-block heaters, which you just plug in whenever you can," she continues. "But most of us just keep our cars running. You go to the grocery store, your car's running with the keys in it. "

Walking her two dogs — a black Labrador and a Chihuahua — can be daunting. Her Lab "loves the snow," Risdahl says. "He's not quite aware of how cold it is until he's actually out there, and then you can see him lifting his paws and slowing down. ... We really have to keep an eye on him. He still does like to go out. The Chihuahua? Forget it. Thank goodness he's paper-trained."

When Risdahl decided to move, she says, she hadn't realized Tok was going to feel like Antarctica.

Also read our blog entry on what to wear at -78 degrees F.

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