Extreme cold temperatures returned to Interior Alaska for the first time in years on Friday.
An official temperature of minus 65 was recorded 15 miles northeast of Manley Hot Springs, according to the National Weather Service. It is the coldest official temperature in Alaska since Fort Yukon recorded a minus 66 temperature in January 2012.
Allakaket reported an official temperature of 60 degrees below zero Friday morning; Arctic Village was at minus 56; Huslia recorded a minus 52; Nikolai saw minus 50; and Fort Yukon and Kaltag reported minus 46. Temperatures of minus 28 in Fairbanks and minus 24 in Tok were recorded early Friday but dropped to the minus 30s as skies cleared during the day.
However, Allakaket residents say their thermometers are showing much colder temperatures. Charlotte Mayo said temperatures were closer to minus 74 or 75, but the thermometer "doesn't even go down that far," she said.
"People are getting low on fuel and wood," she said of the 165 residents of the Koyukuk River village 184 miles northwest of Fairbanks. "The washeteria water froze outside. Everyone's snowmachines barely work. The Bravos, the old snowmachines, work, but no one wants to run them because they might break. The store is only open for half a day."
The gas station is also frozen, she said, and no one can get fuel or diesel. Propane for cookstoves also froze.
"Been like this since December 19th," she wrote in an email. "One warm day on Dec. 22nd it was -35 below, heat wave.
"Hopefully it will start warming up. They are checking on each other."
Propane becomes a liquid at minus 44 and mercury freezes solid at minus 38.
Climatologist Rick Thoman notes that home thermometers may show colder temperatures in extreme conditions because they are not designed to accurately read temperatures that low, but that the unofficial minus 62 recorded at the airport was likely about right.
"That said," Thoman said on his @AlaskaWx twitter account, "infrared satellite images suggest -70F in town Allakaket (lower elevation that the airstrip) is not unreasonable."
Thoman noted that official weather observation points north of the Alaska Range are scattered and few are located in spots where cold air is known to pool.
"So when we say say the the lowest temperature is "X" or it's the coldest since "Y," it's important to keep in mind the very significant limitations that these statistics are based on. It's the best we have and hope they are representative, but can never be comprehensive," he tweeted.
Villages south of the Brooks Range also were under a dangerous windchill warning Friday morning, with windchills of 60 below or colder in some areas.
Temperatures on the North Slope were in the minus teens and 20s.
Fairbanks is likely to escape the deepest cold, according to the National Weather Service, as clouds and light snow move back into the region this weekend. The snow may be accompanied by a northeast wind, which could result in windchills of 55 below zero.
Contact staff writer Julie Stricker at 459-7532.