The third week of skin-freezing cold began in Alaska with 52-below weather in a dense, icy fog, as emergency shelters opened and dozens of towns reported food and fuel shortages.

"It's even too cold for Eskimos," an Eskimo said Sunday at the packed Brother Francis Shelter for the homeless in Anchorage.At least 28 towns reported problems ranging from food and fuel shortages to frozen pipes.

The Red Cross opened a shelter in Anchorage Sunday for families with frozen pipes and no heat, while the National Guard prepared to air-drop food and fuel to towns cut off by the cold's freezing grip on virtually all of Alaska. But the icy fog was hampering all flight activity in many areas, officials said.

Cold is the single topic of conversation in Alaska and when people talk about the cold, they no longer say "below zero" or "minus." That's taken for granted.

Fairbanks forecaster Brian Lynn said in an interview Sunday, "The coldest today was 63 at McGrath (northwest of Anchorage) and there are lots of people in the 40s and 50s. But the west coast warmed up to the teens and 20s."

As an afterthought, Lynn said, "That's all below zero, of course."

Early Monday, temperatures dipped to 46 below zero at Fairbanks and 58 below in Nenana.

"Temperatures in the lower levels of the atmosphere are as cold as we have ever seen," Lynn said.

Alaska almost certainly has broken U.S. cold records - 80 below at Prospect Creek, Alaska on Jan. 23, 1971 - several times and in several places during the cold spell, said Fairbanks forecaster Kraig Gilkey, Anchorage weatherman Tim Craig and other meteorologists. Military officials volunteered the coldest unofficial report - minus 88 near an air base at Galena west of Fairbanks, but the official record was still in place. Forecasters said readings are colder than some thermometers register.