NEWS FROM TOK, ALASKA

(01/05/2009)

By Bob Weaver

We occasionally report the latest happenings in Tok, Alaska, mostly because my son and his family live there, and I have visited the place - except in winter.

There has been a real cold snap over the region these past few days, with the lowest official temperature this year in nearby (75 miles) Chicken, Alaska, a chilly -72 degrees.

The Chicken bar door was wide open last July, but
likely closed tight this past week in -72 temperatures

Chicken, located close to the Yukon, draws a pretty good tourist crowd in the summer, but its' wintertime population is about a dozen. We assume they are keeping warm and lubricating themselves in the village's bar.

They do have great high-speed Internet service via satellite.

It was almost hot when we visited the village last July and panned for gold.

The temperature in Tok is dropping to -60 degrees, and once in a while warming up to -35 degrees, according to my son Eric. "It takes a lot of wood to keep the stoves going, with at least one person on fire-watch during the early morning hours," he said.

His wife Vickie, four kids and his mother-in-law are being entertained by three dogs and four cats, and lots of movies. The dogs have a keen sense of gaging the outside temperature when they leave the cozy log cabin to relieve themselves.

"If it's warmer, above -25, they run around a little, but if it's below, they do their business lightning speed," Eric said.

Eric reports fascinating sights in the sky related to ice crystals, freezing moisture which appears at -40, causing strange reflections in the night sky.

Down on the ground, ice crystals create mirages. For example, a single car with its lights on coming toward you looks like 50 sets of car lights. "Pretty scary sometimes," he said.

Last week, there was a widely reported event in Tok, likely a meteor falling from space.

Others around Tok speculated in might have been an exploding UFO.

A tremendous explosion, like a sonic boom, drew people outside, said Eric.

Following the explosion, "I could kind of hear it still rumbling, like thunder. I thought, what in the world?" said resident Kathy Olding.

"It was just like somebody took a pen and made a white cloud that went up and down and up and down and squiggly," she said.

Alaska State Troopers dispatcher Diane Kendall received several calls starting about 3:30 p.m. One caller reported the Martians had landed.

One caller said it was like a big fireball that exploded, with smoke everywhere.

Sgt. Freddie Wells, the state trooper on duty at the time, investigated. He said news that the mysterious incident was likely a meteor was somewhat reassuring, laying to rest Martian theories.

And that's the news from frosty Tok.


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