Stacey Leasca
Updated January 30, 2019

If you live anywhere close to Chicago you already know that stepping outside today may be a dangerous endeavor. After all, temperatures are well below freezing and a windchill factor making it feel like 51 below zero. So, if you don’t have to go outside today, don’t. But, if you do, you’ll likely be met with a dystopian vision that includes empty streets and railroad tracks that are currently on fire.

"One of the coldest arctic air mass intrusions in recent memory is surging south into the Upper Midwest before spreading across much of the eastern two-thirds of the country," the National Weather Service said in a statement, according to USA Today. It further warned of "life-threatening wind chills, likely leading to widespread record lows and low maximum temperatures."

Because of this, the United States Postal Service made the extremely rare decision to suspend mail service to parts of Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania on Wednesday, USA Today explained.

The USPS wasn’t the only organization to take notice of the dangerous temperatures. Amtrak also suspended service in Chicago, announcing that the "extreme weather conditions and an abundance of caution" led the service to cancel all trains.

However, local railways are still running in the city, but only because crews literally set them on fire. According to ABC News, crews found that several switching mechanisms weren’t working along the tracks thanks to the freezing temperatures contracting the metal rails. To combat this problem, crews went medieval and soaked some rope in kerosene. They then placed the burning rope next to the rails, which helped keep it just warm enough to function properly. Clearly, people loved the sight of it on social media.

Again, though this makes excellent social media fodder it cannot be stressed enough the importance of staying inside and somewhere warm. According to USA Today, at least four deaths are already being blamed on the cold, including one man who was struck and killed by a snow plow in the Chicago area and a Milwaukee man who was found frozen to death in a garage.

“Everyone of us has a role to check on somebody who is maybe a neighbor on the block who is elderly, infirm or needs extra help,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement.

Hopefully, things won’t stay miserable for too long. According to Weather.com, temperatures are supposed to rise above the negatives by the end of the week, potentially making it into the 40s over the weekend.

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