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Even for Alaskans, this winter's a cold one

Ted Johnson planned on using a set of logs to a build a cabin in Alaska's interior. Instead he'll burn some of them to stay warm.
Alaska Extreme Cold
Elisabeth Habermann of the University of Alaska-Fairbanks skis from the race trail in subzero weather at Kincaid Park in Anchorage Wednesday before the day's races for the U.S. Cross Country Ski Championships were canceled. Al Grillo / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Ted Johnson planned on using a set of logs to a build a cabin in Alaska's interior. Instead he'll burn some of them to stay warm.

Extreme temperatures — in Johnson's case about 60 below zero — call for extreme measures in a statewide cold snap so frigid that temperatures have grounded planes, disabled cars, frozen water pipes and even canceled several championship cross country ski races.

Alaskans are accustomed to subzero temperatures but the prolonged conditions have folks wondering what's going on with winter less than a month old.

National Weather Service meteorologist Andy Brown said high pressure over much of central Alaska has been keeping other weather patterns from moving through. New conditions get pushed north or south while the affected area faces daily extremes.

"When it first started almost two weeks ago, it wasn't anything abnormal," Brown said. "About once or twice every year, we get a good cold snap. But, in this case, you can call this an extreme event. This is rare. It doesn't happen every year."

Temperatures sit well below zero in the state's various regions, often without a wisp of wind pushing down the mercury further.

Nearly 2 weeks at 60 below
Johnson lives in Stevens Village, where residents have endured close to two weeks of temperatures pushing 60 below zero.

A frost covered totem pole looks cold sitting outside of the Alaska Railroad depot in Anchorage, Alaska Tuesday Jan. 6, 2009 during what is the third longest cold snap in Alaska' history. Temperatures in Anchorage have been in the minus double digits and temperatures and in the interior have dipped to -65 in some areas.Al Grillo / AP

The cold has kept planes grounded, Johnson said. Food and fuel aren't coming in and they're starting to run low in the village, about 90 miles northwest of Fairbanks.

Johnson, whose home has no heater or running water, said he ventures outside only to get more logs for burning and to fetch water from a community facility. He's been saving the wood to build a cabin as a second home, but that will have to wait a few years now because the heat takes precedence.

"I've never seen it this cold for this long," he said. "I remember it 70 below one time, but not for a week and a half."

19 below in Anchorage
In Anchorage, Alaska's largest city, residents are used to lows of about 10-degree temperatures in January — not 19 below zero, which is what folks awoke to Wednesday morning.

Temperatures finally settled to about 10 below at midday, but that was cold enough to cancel races in the U.S. Cross Country Ski Championships.

Skiers won't compete unless it's warmer than 4 below zero, but the numbers have ranged between 10 below and 15 below.

That has led to four days of canceled or postponed competition with organizers hoping to get a set of races under way on Thursday, the event's final day.

Meanwhile, in Juneau, the state's capital is enjoying balmy weather by comparison with lows in the single digits.