Too cold

From the Anchorage Daily News

Mid-January temperatures in Bethel, ALaska, normally hover around zero, according to the National Weather Service. Last week, a chill set in that bottomed out at minus 30 Sunday morning, though winds were light all weekend.

Monday was a different story. With the temperature at 29 below, northeast winds gusted to nearly 40 mph, driving the wind chill below minus 60….

Jan. 19 is also the day Epiphany is celebrated in the Russian Orthodox Church, a holiday that celebrates the baptism of Christ. At St. Sophia church in Bethel, parishioners usually chop a hole in the Kuskokwim River ice and dip out water for the Rev. George Berezkin to bless.

Not this year. Too cold, said subdeacon Nick. In a typical year, parishioners must remove their hats during the service, he said, and the priest dips a cross into the river three times during the ceremony, then holds the dripping cross while reciting long prayers.

“Without hats and gloves, their hands would freeze right on the cross,” Nick said. He’s seen that happen, though the power of the Holy Spirit prevented the people from suffering frostbite, he said.

This year, George blessed water inside. He gave it to parishioners Monday, after getting a ride to church. His car wouldn’t start, he said.

Sonja Olofsson was ready for the restorative powers of running after waking Monday morning to frozen pipes. The taps worked all weekend but slowed down, then stopped.

A veteran of a dozen Bethel winters, Olofsson said she’s used to cold snaps. “This is about normal around here,” she said. “Unfortunately.”