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With below-freezing temperatures approaching Texas and the Big Country, now is a good time to double-check your vehicles, homes, and pets to ensure we all survive the cold snaps with little to no damage.

First off: I am not a cold-weather person. I am that guy that is running around, checking on everything before the cold snap gets here. The first thing I do is fuel up the vehicles, and check the battery, windshield wipers, tire pressure, tire treads, and all fluid levels.

Recently, a friend shared a "Winter Weather Safety Checklist" he got from the
North Texas American Red Cross. Additionally, the Texas Department Of Safety released their "Cold Weather Driving Safety Tips." I too have a few tips that were not on either list.

I've combined them all for a complete list. As always, be safe, stay warm, and remember to think of your pets and bring them in if at all possible.

Lower the Risk of House Fires — Don't Leave Space Heaters Unattended

More house fires occur during cold weather when everyone is using heaters. Remember all heaters need space all the way around and keep them far away from anything flammable. Keep children and pets away as well.

Portable space heaters must be placed on solid ceramic tiles, and never not left unattended. Never run a space heater with an extension cord. Turn it off and unplug it when you leave the room or go to sleep.

Protect Your Pipes from Freezing

The objective is to keep warm air in and cold air out by keeping garage doors closed —  especially if there's a water line or water heater in the garage.

Make sure you open your kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to let the warm air circulate around the plumbing under sinks. Clear chemicals out so kids don't get into them.

Yes, it really does work (even at a trickle) when you leave the cold water dripping from faucets, especially external pipes. Running water through the pipe prevents those pipes from freezing.

How to Thaw Frozen Water Pipes

If you suspect that you have a frozen pipe, turn on a faucet. If only a trickle or nothing comes out, it's likely frozen along an exterior wall or where water enters the home through the foundation. Keep the faucet open as it begins to thaw; water will begin to flow again.

A tip to help thaw exposed pipes is to use a heating pad wrapped around the frozen pipe or blow-dry them. Don't use things like blowtorches, kerosene heaters, live coals, or other open flame propane torches. If you can, call a licensed plumber.

Don't Play the Thermostat Tug-of-War Game — Set It & Forget It

Allowing the central-heat thermostat to remain at the same temperature during night and day will keep a better temperature balance throughout the cold snap. By doing so, you'll help prevent a more costly repair job as pipes freeze and burst.

If you're going out of town or the home will be vacant, at least leave the central heater on and set to a temperature that is NO lower than 55° F.

How to Prepare Your Car for Bad Weather

I try to avoid being stuck outside any longer than I have to. I squirt some hand sanitizer or Pam cooking spray into the keyholes to keep them from freezing up. I then use a rag to wipe Pam on the rubber seals around the car doors to keep them from freezing shut.

Now, you can take the floormats and put the rubber side on the windshield, and hold them there with the wiper-blades. In the morning I remove them, shake them off, and now my windshield is cleared.

Helpful Tips to Get Us Through Rain, Ice, Sleet, or Snow

Start by being informed and monitoring local weather forecasts before you ever hit the road. When the roads are slick and/or frozen if at all possible, avoid going out unless absolutely necessary.

Know which roads are good and which ones are bad... and which ones are closed. I recall during the winter storm of February 2021 that DPS closed parts of I-20, Highway 277, and other Texas highways because they were too dangerous to travel on.

If You Must Travel, Plan Your Path Well in Advance

Allow yourself extra time, and let the others know you're on the road and your path. Do not use your phone while driving. Decrease your speed and increase your distance from other vehicles. 'Never use the cruise' when on slick surfaces. Know the road and look out for downed trees and powerlines.

For more tips visit: the North Texas American Red CrossReady.gov, and check out the winter driving safety tips from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

KEEP READING: Get answers to 51 of the most frequently asked weather questions...

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