84 Below

The afternoon winter sun, low on the horizon, backlights an ice-frosted double-paned window on the south side of Tikigaq School.

A few lights from the school and the town peel back the pre-dawn blackness as we begin our short morning walk to school. Steam oozes from nearby buildings–not just from furnace vents, but from every crack and seam, and every molecule of water freezes or vaporizes almost instantly.¬†Brutally cold gusts of wind lift sheets of snow from the ground, at times creating blizzard-like conditions. Our faces begin hurting mere steps from our house. The cold gets in our lungs and makes us cough.¬†Frostbite will nip any exposed skin within five minutes in these conditions.

This is a new cold, a cold we haven’t experienced before. Later in the day, Barbra and I take a cup of near-boiling water outside and slowly pour it out. Most of it turns to steam, vaporizing before it ever hits the ground.

We check NOAA on the computer: 84 below with the windchill.