A Song of Fire and Ice

Dear Money & Crisis Reader,

As the Midwest freezes, Chicago is burning its own railroads.

Yup. It’s gotten so cold out there, it’s just about the only thing they can do to keep the trains running.

You see, as temperatures drop below freezing, the rails shrink and contract. This causes them to break away from each other and pull up out of the dirt.

The only way to fix this mess, and avoid a catastrophic derailing, is to douse them with gasoline and set them on fire.

On fire

It sounds a little extreme. But desperate times call for desperate measures. And times are desperate.

As we speak, life-threatening temperatures are tearing through the Midwest on the back of once-in-a-generation polar vortex.

Temperatures have dropped as low as -30F. And according to the national weather service, we’re looking at a wind chill factor between 60F-70F.


“These are VERY DANGEROUS conditions and can lead to frostbite on exposed skin in as little as five minutes where wind chill values are below -50,” the National Weather Service tweeted. “Best thing you can do is limit your time outside.”

It ain’t been this cold outside since the cold wave of ’96.

It’s so cold that it’s forced the U.S. postal service to break their famous motto — “neither snow nor rain nor heat” — and suspended delivery to ten states in the Midwest.


Several deaths linked to the cold weather have already been reported, including a Milwaukee man who froze to death shoveling snow in a garage and the death of a nine-year-old boy in Nebraska.

Obviously, the only way to be safe in conditions like these is to stay inside. But in conditions as cold as these there are a few key things you need to be aware of.

Polar Vortex Survival Strategies

Safe and warm at home:

  • Keep your cellphone, laptop, and tablet fully charged. You never know when you’ll lose power.
  • Open curtains on the sunny side of the house to warm up those rooms. Close the curtains when the sun goes down.
  • Only use space heaters designed to be used indoors. No patio heaters. No extra heat from stoves or ovens. The buildup of carbon monoxide can be deadly.
  • Open the doors of the kitchen sink and lavatory cabinets on outside walls to prevent water lines from freezing.
  • Allow a trickle of water from faucets to keep water flowing and prevent freezing. Flush the toilets frequently.
  • Set your heat to at least 68–70°F. Any lower and your heating system will have trouble keeping up with the rapidly dropping cold.
  • Block air coming in under doors with a rolled up rug or towel.

If you absolutely must go outside:

  • Cover up everything, even your face if possible. Any bare skin exposed to the elements is at risk of frostbite.
  • Dress in layers to trap in heat.
  • Breath through your nose to warm the air before it hits your lungs.
  • Watch out for black ice.
  • Limit your time outdoors.
  • Don’t drink alcohol if you’re heading outdoors. You might feel warmer but alcohol actually speeds up the loss of body heat.
  • Stay hydrated and eat well before you go outside. Your body can burn the extra calories for warmth.
  • Keep moving.

Know the signs of frostbite and seek medical attention ASAP:

  • Cold skin and a prickling feeling
  • Numbness
  • Red, white, bluish-white, or grayish-yellow skin
  • Hard or waxy-looking skin
  • Clumsiness due to joint and muscle stiffness
  • Blistering after rewarming, in severe cases
  • Fever

Know the symptoms of hypothermia and seek medical attention ASAP:

  • Intense shivering
  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness and loss of coordination

Wherever you are, stay safe and stay warm.

All the best,

Owen Sullivan

Owen Sullivan
Editor, Money & Crisis

Owen Sullivan

Written By Owen Sullivan

Owen Sullivan isn’t a millionaire or one of the Wall Street elite. He was just one of the many folks who was hit hard when the housing bubble burst… and decided he was never going to let that happen again. Since then, he’s worked with industry experts to develop strategies and techniques to bulletproof his finances — and yours — against the next crisis. His methods don’t require years of financial experience. These are simple strategies that anyone can follow. After all, financial prepping shouldn’t be reserved for a select few.