Enough is enough, Fairbanks residents say bring on the cold

Posted: Thursday, January 04, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- It's January, and Fairbanks has yet to be shrouded in ice fog.

What's going on?

The mercury has dipped to 30 degrees below zero only once all winter, causing some good-natured grumbling among heating oil distributors, plumbers, snow plowing services, firewood dealers and auto mechanics.

While December 2000 wasn't the warmest December ever, it was warm -- almost seven degrees warmer than normal. It was the 15th warmest December since 1904, according to the National Weather Service in Fairbanks.

The warmest December on record was in 1914, when the average temperature in Fairbanks was 10.2 degrees.

''We have not seen one wisp of ice fog,'' said meteorologist Ted Fathauer.

The average temperature in December was 0.3 degrees. That compares with a normal temperature of 6.5 degrees below zero. The high temperature was 26 degrees on Dec. 13 and the low was 36 below on Dec. 2, the only time the temperature hit 30 below the entire month.

Russell Lynn, owner of Bud Hilton's Thawing, Pumping and Backhoe Service, said 2001 probably won't be a banner year.

''Maybe the governor will bail us out like he did those commercial fishermen,'' he said.

Jeff Bovee, manager of Alaska Best Plumbing and Heating, said his business has suffered somewhat.

''Obviously we're not fixing as many frozen up houses and our heating business is not as busy, but we have run of the mill plumbing problems,'' he said.

The minimal snowfall, however, could bring work if the temperature does plummet. That's because the frost could go deeper since the insulating snowfall is lacking.

At Totem Chevron, owner and operator Todd Krier said he hasn't had ''near as many repair jobs, and not near as much gasoline is being sold.''

When it gets 20 or 30 below, Krier said gasoline sales at his station jump 1,000 gallons a day because people leave their automobiles running and because engines use more gas during colder weather.

Also, cold weather is tough on cars, so repairs are more likely during cold snaps.

''I hate to admit it, but we wish it was colder. Everybody is praying for cold weather,'' Krier said.

Dan Stewart, owner of Frostbite Mobile Auto, thought Fairbanks would be the ideal place for his new business.

''I've only done five starts this winter,'' he said. ''It's a good business, but it's not cold enough.''

Donald Guines just started a snow plowing service and couldn't have picked a worse winter. ''It's having a pretty negative effect on me,'' he said.

Firewood dealers said sales have dropped off.

''When it gets cold the firewood goes out like crazy,'' said Jason Knoles, sales manager at Northland Wood, which sells slab wood and split spruce. ''This year we haven't had that urgency.''

Heating oil companies have seen somewhat slower sales.

''We're behind, but I'm not concerned because we are going to get cold weather,'' said Robert Hawkins, vice president of Alaska Aerofuel. ''My big concern is that we won't be able to keep up when we do.''

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