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Originally published November 23, 2010 at 6:08 PM | Page modified January 16, 2012 at 2:12 PM

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Tips to cope with wintry conditions

With the forecast calling for freezing temperatures for the next few days, keep these safety tips in mind.

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With the forecast calling for freezing temperatures for the next few days, keep these safety tips in mind:

If you have to drive:

• Before leaving home, check traffic and weather reports on TV, radio or websites. Statewide travel alerts and road conditions: www.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/

• Clear snow and ice from car surfaces before driving. Snow on the hood can blow toward the windshield and block your view.

• Keep safety equipment, spare parts and food and water in the car. Keep your cellphone fully charged.

• Keep your fuel tank at least half full. Make sure your wiper-fluid reservoir isn't running low.

• Drive with headlights on.

• Slow down. If possible, avoid driving altogether.

• Even when roads are dry, watch out for icy bridges.

• Stay at least 15 car-lengths (200 feet) back from maintenance vehicles and plows, and don't pass them on the right.

• Don't use cruise control.

• Use brakes sparingly to avoid skidding.

• Don't pump anti-lock brakes to stop.

• If you need to pull over, the State Patrol asks you to stay with your vehicle, where you'll be safer. Call for help or hang a colorful piece of cloth from your window or antenna.

More winter driving tips: www.wsdot.wa.gov/winter/

If the power goes out:

• Have a power-outage kit that includes flashlights and batteries, glow-in-the-dark sticks, a lantern, matches, a windup clock, a portable radio, a Mylar blanket and a can opener.

• Never burn charcoal indoors. Charcoal produces toxic fumes that can kill quickly. Use this multi-language page to help warn your neighbors: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/ABPub/2008/12/24/2008557767.pdf

• Close your curtains and blinds to keep the heat in and prevent drafts.

• Use hot water sparingly.

• Turn off most electrical devices, and unplug sensitive electrical equipment. Leave a light switched on, however, so you'll know when the power returns.

• Never handle or approach a downed power line.

• Use only space heaters designed for the indoors. Even those need to be vented adequately to avoid carbon-monoxide poisoning. Keep space heaters away from curtains and clothing. Always turn off the heaters before going to bed or leaving home.

• To avoid deadly carbon-monoxide poisoning, keep generators outdoors when they're running, and make sure the exhaust is not near a window or other opening to the home.

• Never plug a portable generator into an electrical outlet; it could backfeed into the power lines, which can injure or kill utility workers fixing the lines.

• Get fresh air and get help right away if you feel sick or dizzy while using a generator or space heater. Fatigue, nausea or sleepiness are signs of carbon-monoxide poisoning.

• Seattle City Light outage hotline, 206-684-7400; www.seattle.gov/light

• Puget Sound Energy outage reporting, 888-225-5773; www.pse.com/safetyReliability/pseservicealert/Pages/Default.aspx

If your pipes freeze:

• Call a licensed plumber if your pipes freeze. If you locate the frozen section of pipe and try to thaw it yourself, take the following precautions to protect yourself and your property:

• Do not use an open flame. You risk setting your property on fire, and overheating one area can cause the pipe to burst.

• Place a warm towel or rag around the pipe.

• Make sure you know the location of your master shut-off valve. The frozen pipe already may be broken and, when the water is thawed, it will leak. In this case you will need to shut off the water in your home or business until the leaky pipe is fixed.

— Seattle Times staff

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