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How to avoid common weather woes in bitter cold temperatures

The temperatures in the Buffalo area are expected to drop to as low as 2 degrees this week.

So here are some tips on how to keep your car running, navigate ice-caked sidewalks, avoid freezing water pipes and even keep your pets safe in the cold.

The deep freeze has been killing off car batteries left and right this week.

AAA of Western New York and Central New York was bombarded with calls Tuesday and Wednesday from drivers whose cars wouldn’t start.

On Tuesday, “we received nearly 2,600 calls, which is more than double we’d receive on an average December day,” said Lindsay Kensy, a spokeswoman for the auto club. By 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, AAA had received 270 calls across its territory, she said.

Here are some winter driving tips from AAA:

• If you notice your battery is slow to turn when you try to start it up, get it checked.

• Park in a garage, if possible, to keep the battery warmer.

• Drive your car regularly, even if it’s just for a bit, so the battery gets some use, unless it’s not safe to drive.

• Check the tire pressure before driving and fill with air if needed. As the average temperature drops, so will tire pressures – typically by one PSI for every 10 degrees.

• Check the coolant level in the overflow tank when the engine is cold. If the level is low, add a 50/50 solution of coolant and water to maintain the necessary antifreeze capability.

• Dress warmly and carry extra clothes, including an extra hat, gloves, socks and blanket.

• Make sure your emergency road kit includes a shovel, water, snacks and a car charger.

• Keep your gas tank full.

• When you are going for a drive, let someone else know where you are headed and keep in touch. Don’t travel alone unless you have to.

Walk like a penguin

It’s icy out there this week and it’s easy to wipe out on an ice-caked sidewalk.

A “Today Show” tip on how to walk on ice and snow safely: “Walk like a penguin.”

“The waddle keeps your center of gravity over your front leg and will keep you upright. Spread your feet out slightly, to increase your center of gravity, and take small steps,” the show said.

The NBC show also suggested keeping your hands out of your pockets while walking, based on advice from the Centers for Disease Control.

And if you do feel yourself falling, tuck and roll, “Today” said.

“If you feel yourself losing balance, tuck into a ball, make yourself as small as possible and keep your head and face away from the fall, experts say. Don’t put out your hands to catch yourself, or you’ll risk breaking your arms or wrists. Try to land on the fleshy part of your body rather than your knees or spine,” “Today” said.

Frozen pipes

If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. Spots where pipes are vulnerable to freezing include against exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation.

To prevent your home’s water pipes from freezing, which can be a messy and expensive disaster, here are some tips from the American Red Cross:

• Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.

• Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing.

• When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from faucets served by exposed pipes.

• Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night.

• If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.

If your pipes do freeze, here’s what you can do to thaw them:

• Keep your faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt ice in the pipe.

• Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open-flame device. Apply heat until full water pressure is restored.

• If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you can not thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.

Protect your pets

The freezing temperatures and snow and ice on the ground in the Buffalo area can make trips outside treacherous for your pet.

Here are some tips from the ASPCA on taking care of your pets – and their tender paws – this winter.

• If it’s too cold for you, it’s probably too cold for your pet, so keep your animals inside.

• Don’t leave pets alone in a car during cold weather. Cars hold in the cold and can cause animals to freeze to death.

• When walking your dog, bring a towel to clean off their paws. After each walk, wash and dry your pet’s feet and stomach to remove ice, salt and chemicals – and check for cracks in paw pads or redness between the toes. Massaging petroleum jelly or other paw protectants into paw pads before going outside can help protect from salt and chemical agents. Booties provide even more coverage and can also prevent sand and salt from getting lodged between bare toes and causing irritation.

• Don’t shave your dog down to the skin in winter, as a longer coat will provide more warmth. If your dog is short-haired, consider dressing it in a coat or sweater.

• Bathe your pets as little as possible during cold spells. Washing too often can remove essential oils and increase the chance of developing dry, flaky skin.

• Be sure to clean up any leaked antifreeze from your vehicle. It is lethal for dogs and cats.

• Feed your pet a little bit more during the winter months.

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