Thursday, February 6, 2014

Polar freeze

That polar vortex blasting the US of late?  That is typical winter weather in Astana.

Having said that, until the last week or so, Astana has been having what for the locals is an unusually warm winter -- having dipped below zero °F only 3-4 times so far. But that recently changed with a typical polar freeze taking over and with temperatures falling to -31 °F (-35 °C).

How do we survive?  We do as the locals do (minus the fur coats).

Essentials for surviving the polar freeze?

For humans?
  • Base layer - something that wicks away from the skin (thermal silks).  Fleece or fur-lined boots. Ugg boots and a pair of wool socks have kept my (Robyn) feet warm on even the coldest days so far. Columbia boots (rated to -25 °F) and plenty of SmartWool™ socks have been keeping Kevin's toes very comfortable.
  • Regular clothes - fashions are similar to what we've been wearing at home: jeans, dress pants (except we have not seen any khakis/Dockers so far, maybe in warmer weather?)
  • Sweater or fleece jacket - this is the key: adding another layer or two underneath a coat.
  • Down coat with a hood, plus a scarf and a hat.  You absolutely must cover your face against the wind.

For cars?
While some residences have parking garages, many cars are parked on surface lots.  So no garages, no power to turn engine heaters.  Instead, many people have remote starters... a colleague has an automatic starter that will turn the engine on for 30 minutes whenever the temperature dips below a certain threshold.

It is not uncommon to see a parked car running for several minutes, no driver in sight!  Those without remote starters have to get up every 2-3 hours on nights when it's -25 °F to turn on their engines.

For homes?
NO PROBLEM.  Every indoor space we've entered so far has been way overheated by American standards.

Radiator heat is everywhere. Winter has been an exercise in bundling up to go outside, and then stripping down to short sleeve shirts indoors!

Are you staying warm this winter?

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