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This post provides tips how to stay sane when you have to stay at home for various reasons like bad weather, quarantine, etc. It reports how people stay sane at home in Interior Alaska during winter when temperatures are in the double negative digits.



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Winters in Eastern Interior Alaska Are Often Self-Sheltering

Eastern Interior Alaska encompasses the Tanana Valley Flats north of the Alaska Range and south of the White Mountains as well as the Yukon Flats North of the White Mountains and south of the Brooks Range. Mountains enclose the Tanana Valley like a horseshoe with the opening to the West. The Brooks-, White Mountains- and Oglivie Mountains Ranges enclose the Yukon Flats totally. Except one, all communities of the Yukon Flats are above the Arctic Circle. There the Sun stays below the horizon for a prolonged time in winter and above the horizon for in summer. In winter, they have dark days, white nights in summer.


Google map satellite map of the Yukon and Tanana Flats
Google map satellite map of the Yukon and Tanana Flats. Top is North. The white line from the top to the bottom is the Alaska-Yukon Territory border.


The continental location of the Eastern Interior leads to comparatively warm summers for the high latitude and extremely cold, dry winters. Minimum temperatures below minus forty degree may occur for weeks in the Yukon Flats leading to monthly mean minimum temperatures below -30F (-34.4oC; see upper panel below). In the Tanana Flats, such low values often occur in January (middle panel). In the hills around the larger Fairbanks area, temperatures tend to be higher in winter due to the temperature inversions because during inversions temperature increases with height.


annual cycle of air temperatures in the Yukon and Tanana Flats of eastern interior Alaska
Annual cycle of monthly mean temperature (Tmean), monthly mean maximum temperature (Tmax), and monthly mean minium temperature (Tmin) at Ft. Yukon, which is the largest community in the Yukon Flats (upper panel), and Fairbanks International Airport, in the Tanana Flats (middle). The bottom panel show the annual cycle of monthly mean temperature for various parts of the Fairbanks metropolitan area except for Circle Hot Springs, which is in the Yukon Flats. North Pole is a city in the Fairbanks area. -30, -15, 0, 15, 30, 45, 60, 75F are -34.4, -26.1, -18, -9.4, -1.1, 7.2, 15.6, 23.9oC, respectively


The cold air freezes whatever is wet immediately. The hair in your nose get covered with hoar as do the eyelashes, eye brows and fine hair on everyone’s face. During these conditions, people only leave their houses when they absolutely have too. Therefore, sourdoughs (Alaskans living 20 years or more in Alaska) know how to stay sane during prolonged sheltering in their homes.


Why Alaskans Prepare for Shortage of Food Supply

Alaskans store water and food supply for them and their pets for at least six weeks at home. Because there is no connection to the contiguous US and the short vegetation season, most fresh food supply comes via air. Bulk products come via ship or trucks driving the Alcan. There are only two streets from the port in Anchorage to Fairbanks. Because they both cross the Denali fault. An earthquake could cut off transportation. Both streets follow along rivers. A huge summer convective system could lead to flooding in both rivers’ catchment at the same time. Also, wildfires often lead to closure of roads. All these hazards could cause shortage of food supply. Interruption of supply by air caused food shortage that sourdoughs well remember of 911.


earthquake damaged road
Road damaged by the magnitude 7.1 Anchorage earthquake in November 30, 2018, at 8:29 am AKST. The epicenter was near Point Mackenzie about 10 miles (16 km) north of Anchorage at 29 miles (47 km) depth. “181130-Z-XX000-0001” by Official U.S. Air Force is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0


In the Yukon Flats, all but one community are off the Alaska road network. Inhabitants live a subsistence lifestyle. This means they go fishing in summer, smoke the fish and store the smoked food in elevated caches to protect it from wildlife. In fall, they pick berries, hunt moose and caribou. The dryness permits conservation by drying the meat in stripes. Of course, people also have freezers.


fish camp in interior Alaska on the Yukon
Fish camp on the Yukon River. Typically, the fish is smoked on the river. Fish camps are often miles away outside of the communities. “Cutting Fish on the Yukon” by Umnak is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0


Small aircrafts fly in fuel and other supply. They can land on a lake or grass-covered air stripe. In winter, these planes land on snow and ice. Occasionally, people fly to Fairbanks to shop for the next months, i.e. grocery shopping in the bush is quite different from what you know. In the Interior, people are happy to get something at all. However, due to the virus the Governor prohibited any travel between communities. Therefore, when slipping on the ice, I had to cope with injury the Alaskan way.



How Sourdoughs Cope with Isolation

Many sourdoughs live in Alaska because they love the loneliness, the wide space, the sparse population. They are self-entertaining. Kids learn arts, music, theater and dance at young age. There are many hobby artists who occupy themselves with activities ranging from painting to sculpture, sewing, needle work and metal work. Many Interior Alaskans are musicians, dancers, singers, authors, and actors. Many people also have subscriptions to more than 200 TV programs! Cooking, baking, and beer brewing serve to keep yourself busy when it’s freaking cold outside.


Happy Lights to Cope with Short or No Daylight

No sunlight is a big issue especially in the Yukon Flats where there is no daylight for several weeks. The body needs sunlight to produce vitamin D. To fight depressions longtime residents use so called happy lights. These lamps emit radiation similar to the natural solar spectrum. Also, many of them take vitamin D from fall to spring. In the Fairbanks area, tanning studios are well visited. However, they are closed now.


Interior Alaska woman staying sane at home by dressing up
Paloma Picasso xo belt, Festina chromograph, Hermes collier de chien leather cuff, citrine and moonstone necklace, GNW tight, Gucci scarf, bi-color studs with ruby, eShakti dress and Fendi boots.


You can find 23 ideas what to do when being bored at home.


What Interior Alaskans Wear at Home at 40 Below

Alaska is the only US state where you can rent without running water aka dry cabins. They are typically located in permafrost areas. Some may even have a dirt floor. Therefore, renters of dry cabins wear thermo-pants or thermo-jumpers and thick wool sweaters at home when it’s 40 below outside.

People living in houses heated only by wood-stoves also bundle up at home in these weather conditions. You can only put that much wood into the wood-stove. When the house loses heat at a given rate there exist an outside temperature at which the inside cannot reach the typical room temperature anymore. Then, people wear long underwear under their Alaska jeans (16 oz with flannel lining) and wool sweaters. Plaid wool button-down shirts are favorites among men.

At 40 below, a furnace runs 24/7 to offset the house’s heat loss. You can run around in flannel or fleece PJs. In Alaska street style PJs are even worn for grocery shopping, running errands or dropping the kids off at school.


Who Can Adapt, Stays

Only 30% of the Alaskans were born in Alaska. New Alaskans come from the airport. No wonder that a plot of the number of Alaskan vs. the number of years they spent in the state, is U-shaped. There are many people living less than two years at the Last Frontier. There are also many sourdoughs. Only a few people are in the group of more than two to 19 years, i.e. in the transition phase. Sourdoughs and those in the transition phase have adapted to the challenges of (frequent) isolation and supply shortages.



Why You Should Dress up when Working from Home

It doesn’t matter whether you use skype, zoom, blue jeans, google hangout, or another software for your virtual work meetings. You may stand up, for whatever reason. Just imagine how ridiculous it looks when your colleague in shirt and tie stands up and you get the view on his PJ pants!



staying sane during snow shutdown by dressing up
Other views of the above outfit.



Why Dressing Up Is Part of Selfcare

When you work from home, dressing up prepares you for a sudden, unexpected “emergency” online meeting. It conveys the message that you take your work seriously. Consequently, you avoid stress situations actively, which is good for your mental health

Putting on a great look improves your mood and is important for your confidence, especially, when you love fashion.

Dressing up, treating yourself and selfcare boost your calm, and can help you to feel good about yourself.


Stylist tip: Stand up, dress up, it’s a matter of great lifestyle.

You may also be interested in reading how to stay sane when you work hybrid.



Edwin, S.G., N. Mölders, 2020. Mesoscale Impacts on Cold Season PM2.5 in the Yukon Flats. Journal of Environmental Protection. doi: 10.4236/jep.2020.113013

Mölders, N., 2019: Outdoor Universal Thermal Comfort Index Climatology for Alaska. Atmospheric and Climate Sciences9, 558-582. doi: 10.4236/acs.2019.94036.

Shulski, M. and Wendler, G. 2007: The Climate of Alaska. University of Alaska Press, Fairbanks. 216 p.

US Census 2018.

Photos of me: G. Kramm

Diagram: N. Mölders



© 2013-2023 Nicole Mölders | All rights reserved

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. shelbeeontheedge1

    Such a fascinating post, Nicole! I really would love to visit Alaska and perhaps live there for a bit to experience this life. It sounds amazing to me. I am loving your cute dress, too! Thanks for linking up with me.


  2. overthehilda

    I learn so much from you about life in Alaska. Love your blog.

  3. What a interesting post! Thanks Nicole!

  4. You’re looking lovely Nicole, great colors and fabulous Paloma belt.
    Keep up the smile 🙂