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It's so cold in North Carolina that cars are leaving behind ice sculptures

This image is surreal. Two people in Greenville, NC, reportedly spotted this ice sculpture left behind after a Jeep Cherokee pulled out of the parking lot of Vidant Medical Center on Tuesday:

(NBC/WITN/Twitter)

The photo was sent in by a reader to WITN, an NBC affiliate in North Carolina (they also have another picture from a different angle). North Carolina was hit by a cold snap and freezing rain earlier this week.

This wasn't an isolated incident, either. Mike Maze, a meteorologist at WRAl-TV 5 in Raleigh, NC, posted on Facebook this reader photo of an ice sculpture left behind by a Dodge Charger:

Picture sent from Stan Bryda of Fayetteville (Mike Maze/Facebook)

How does something like this happen? One eyewitness told NBC that the Jeep Cherokee owner had warmed up the vehicle for a bit before pulling out of the parking spot — allowing the car to slide right out from under the ice.

In general, there's no need for people to idle their engines for long periods of time before driving in the winter. "Most manufacturers recommend driving off gently after about 30 seconds," advises the Department of Energy. "The engine will warm up faster being driven, which will allow the heat to turn on sooner, decrease your fuel costs, and reduce emissions."*

That said, there is one potential upside to idling — spectacular ice sculptures.

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(* Note: There are some exceptions to the "no need to idle rule," as Chris Mooney runs down in exhaustive detail here. If you're waiting for ice to melt off your windshield, for instance, that's an excellent reason to wait. And some cities like Minneapolis advise idling for a bit longer when the weather dips below 0°F. And obviously if you're warming up the car for someone else, that's up to you. That said, it does seem like a fair bit of fuel gets wasted because many people believe engines always need a long warm-up period in winter.)

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