This post reports how people try staying sane at home in Interior Alaska during the COVID-19 lock down.
- Prolog: Lock down and Staying sane at Home
- Winters in Eastern Interior Alaska prepared for self-sheltering
- Who can adapt, stays
- How sourdoughs cope with shortage of food supply
- How sourdoughs cope with being isolated
- What Interior Alaskans wear at home at 40 below
- Why you should dress up when working from home
- Stylish Monday linkup and other locked-down places on Earth
Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post.
Prolog: Lock Down and Staying Sane at Home
Given the current health situation, my blogging friends from Stylish Monday and I have coordinated to give you insight on how the lock down affects life around the World. Thus, visit their blogs to learn about life and indoor fashion in other regions.
Winters in Eastern Interior Alaska prepared for 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. The Tanana Valley is enclosed by mountains like a horseshoe with the opening to the West. The Yukon Flats are totally enclosed by the Brooks-, White Mountains- and Oglivie Mountains Ranges. Except one, all communities of the Yukon Flats are above the Arctic Circle. This means 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.
The continental location of the Eastern Interior leads to comparatively warm summers for the high latitude and extremely cold and 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 in the diagram 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 (During inversions temperature increases with height instead of decreasing with height.).
In the cold air, whatever is wet freezes 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. Thus, sourdoughs (Alaskans living 20 years and longer in Alaska) are used to sheltering in their homes for prolonged times.
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.
How sourdoughs cope with shortage of food supply
Alaskans are advised to have food for them and their pets as well as water supply for at least six weeks stored at home. Why? Being without connection to the contiguous US and the short vegetation season mean that most of the 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. 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 and hence shortage of food supply. Interruption of supply by air caused food shortage that sourdoughs well remember of 911.
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.
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.
How the Fairbanks metropolitan area benefits from the rural shopping network
Grocery stores of the Fairbanks metropolitan area have web pages that were designed for rural Alaskans to mail-order groceries. Employees of the stores pack the order and small aircrafts fly the merchandise into the villages.
Now these webpages serve to handle the shopping situation in the Fairbanks metropolitan area. You order what you need. You pay by credit card. Upon checkout you get told the day and approximate hour when the delivery will arrive. On the day of delivery, an employee from the store leaves the merchandise on your front porch. They give you the approximate time for two reasons. First, temperatures are still below zero. When liquids, salad, fruits, etc. are out for too long, they freeze. Second, it gives you the opportunity to leave a tip under a stone on the porch for the delivery person.
How sourdoughs cope with being isolated
Many sourdoughs live in Alaska because they love the loneliness, the wide space, the sparse population. They are self-entertaining. Kids get trained in the 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 and actors. In Interior Alaska, you also find many authors. I am one of them.
Many people also have very large movie collections or are members of movie renting clubs. Depending on their subscription, they get a couple of new movies every week or months by mail. Others have subscriptions to more than 200 TV programs!
Cooking, baking, and beer brewing are also often used to keep yourself busy when it’s freaking cold outside.
As you can tell from the outfit photos, we are still allowed to be outside, but have to stay apart from everyone who doesn’t belong to our household. Thus, you can jog alone. When another jogger crosses your path there is still the street between you and them. You still can mush your dogs, when you stay away from other mushers and do not mush into other communities. You still can use the ski trails. Skiers are more alerted by wolves on the ski trails than an upcoming other cross-country skier. You just step out of your lane and keep the distance.
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.
You can find 23 ideas what to do when being bored at home in the post at the link.
What Interior Alaskans wear at home at 40 below
Alaska is the only state of the US where landlords can rent out places with WiFi, but no running water. These places are called dry cabins. They are typically located in permafrost areas and their insulations is typically low. Some may even have a dirt floor. Thus, renters of dry cabins have to wear thermo-pants or thermo-jumpers and thick wool sweaters at home when it’s 40 below zero 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 is an outside temperature at which the inside cannot reach the typical room temperature anymore. Thus, 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. The latter are an Alaskan favorite. In Alaska street style PJs are worn for grocery shopping, running errands or dropping the kids off at school.
Why you should dress up when working from home
It doesn’t matter whether you use skype, zoom, bluejeans, 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!
Being well dressed – also when working from home – means you are well prepared for a sudden, unexpected “emergency” online meeting. It conveys the message that you take your work seriously even when working from home.
Dressing for work or putting on a great look for improved mood is important for your confidence and mental health. Especially, when you love fashion. Dressing and putting on makeup take time. When locked down you save the time for the commute. While you may dress a little more casual than at work, your outfit should still pass the office dress code for Casual Friday. When you are locked down, but cannot work from home, dress up anyway. You have a lot of time. Dressing up, self-care can help to kill time and to feel good about yourself.Stand up, dress up, it's a matter of great lifestyle. #stayathome #lifestyle Click To Tweet
Stylish Monday linkup and other locked down places on Earth
Read about the lock-down in The Netherlands on Nancy’s Fashion Style, in Florida on Nina’s Sharing a Journey, in Silicon Valley on Ask Suzanne Bell, in the Southern United States on Andy’s Pearls and Pantsuits, and on the North Shore of Chicago at Julie’s Fashion, Trends and Friends.
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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 Sciences, 9, 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
Data: NOAA NCEP
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