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Chicago Has To Light Their Train Tracks On Fire To Keep Them From Freezing

Twitter - ABC

It seems like the headline from a satirical news paper, or something maybe Trevor Noah would read on The Daily Show, but no, Chicago is actually setting their train tracks on fire.

As you've no doubt heard, much of the country is in the grips of a wicked cold spell. A polar vortex is swooping down from the arctic, bringing with it biting cold temperatures and blowing wind. Authorities from many states have issued frost bite warnings, as temperatures can feel as cold as -50° Fahrenheit.

With weather that cold, a person can develop frostbite in minutes.

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Chicago has been setting records with this blast of cold weather. On Jan 30, Chicago recorded a frigid temp of -22° with a windchill nearly below -50.

The USPS, which is famous for always delivering through snow and rain and heat and gloom, canceled service for the region and schools are closed too.

"Today's about as cold as it can get in Chicago," said Matt Friedlein, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

The Chicago river now more closely resembles a skating rink, with huge chunks of ice bobbing along the iconic waterway.

That's not the strangest sight to see however.

Amtrak canceled its service to the area, but Chicago still has commuter trains that move millions of people daily. The cold presents a significant problem to the metal tracks as it could warp them as they contract.

Chicago has a brilliant solution to the problem: they lit the tracks on fire.

Aerial footage from ABC shows crews lighting portions of Chicago's tracks on fire. It's a surreal image, but also a reminder that extreme temperatures aren't a joke. Not only are they very dangerous to us, but they do a number on our infrastructure as well.

The cold weather is expected to expand and cover as much as 75% of the country, although the Midwest will be hit the hardest. Those states can expect to stay bundled up well into February.

I've been writing for Shared for 6 years. Along with my cat Lydia, I search for interesting things to share with you! You can reach me at Tristan@shared.com.