I keep reading about how its freezing back home in Illinois. While the lower 48 are locked in subzero temperatures, we reached the 40s in Anchorage earlier this week. It was absolutely horrible. In my limited experience, I have come to find that warm days during Alaska’s winters don’t mean lighter jackets and outdoor activities, as it does back home. It means that the top layer of snow melts into horribly slick ice. Contrary to it becoming easier to enjoy outdoor activities, now you had a 75% chance of falling with every step you take.
With the first slight thaw in December, I quickly found that ice cleats are a must! If you don’t know what those are, they are spikes, chains, or other materials that you strap to your shoes, giving you extra traction. They are amazing and work really well. A must have for an Alaskan winter with ice!
As you probably expected, Alaska deals with winter a bit differently. All of my previous experience involves winter in Southern Illinois and Missouri. IL and MO dump tons of salt all over the roads and close all public schools when the wind chill is below zero. If Alaskan schools closed every time there was subzero temperatures, kids would miss weeks at a time.
While down in Illinois, salt would be covering every inch of road, in Alaska they don’t use salt, because it attracts moose… Seriously though, that’s the reason. There are signs posted in the Mat-Su Valley of how many moose accidents there have been since July 1st. Currently the sings list that there has been 139. Instead of salt, they scrape the roads as best they can and put down gravel for traction. The gravel then flies up and hits your car. Most windshields have cracks in them.
Last winter, I was here a few months before I saw the roads through all the packed down snow. That’s what happens to it, the snow becomes packed down upon itself and people just drive over it. It’s super safe… This year there isn’t as much snow. However, my minivan hates pulling out of our neighborhood onto the main road. Every time it yells at me, flashes warnings about not having traction, and takes a good 45 seconds before it grabs anything and starts to really move. Not scary at all when you try to pull onto a busy road.
This fall we equipped my van with studded tires. The studs are embedded in the tires to create extra traction. I didn’t know that this was a thing before we moved up here, but during the winter it seems to be the standard for most cars. Many people also put chains on their tires for the same reason. All of the school buses have chains! I did notice a big difference once I got the new tires. They do help!
As you may know, during the summer, parts of Alaska have sun almost 24 hours a day. In contrast, during the winter, some areas go weeks with no daylight at all. The town of Barrow goes over 60 days without sunlight during the winter months. Luckily we are near Anchorage, much further south than Barrow. We never go completely without sunlight. However, oh my, does the quality of light change! The sun never makes it all the way up into the sky! In fact, our house has been completely in the shadow of a nearby mountain since October! I didn’t anticipate how much this would affect me. We ended up getting what is called a Happy Light. It is a light (quite a common purchase up here) that simulates natural sunlight. I have to admit, it does help! Also, our cats really like it…
Something that amazed me last winter, and still does this winter is that when people crash their cars out here, they seem to just abandon them. During the winter and particularly after a big storm, the Glen Highway is littered with smashed cars. They stay there for weeks and sometimes months until they are flagged to be towed. The cracked windshields and broken axles are a reminder that the road is a very dangerous place.
While I love winter and I adore snow, the ice we have gotten this year has made me miserable. Early this week the temperature was in the 40’s. However, today’s high is predicted to be a balmy 11! This coming Wednesday is supposed to reach 1! Now we just need some snow to cover up all that nasty ice. Here’s to hoping there is more snow and less ice in the coming weeks!
To see more of our adventures visit us at: https://www.instagram.com/fromthestates/ !