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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Head start: Here are winter safety tips to get ahead of an expected snowier season

With a 70% to 80% chance of a La Niña winter in Spokane, this next season is expected to bring more snowy weather. That’s incentive in the next several weeks of fall to prepare with safety measures both for you and your home.

The long-range forecast for the remainder of the year predicts a strong chance for above-normal precipitation for much of Washington and Oregon. A La Niña occurs when winds are stronger than usual and push warm ocean water toward Asia, causing cold, nutrient-rich water to come to the surface along the West Coast of North America.

But you can get ready now for any blows of winter a few steps at a time. There are handy tip sheets offered by several insurance companies, health care centers and AARP for what to do ahead of frigid temperatures.

Here are some ideas:

Prevent pipe ruptures. PEMCO Insurance offers several steps to take now. Start by disconnecting your garden hoses and protecting the faucets with a foam cover. If it has an indoor valve, turn it off and open the faucet to drain any trapped water so it can’t freeze and potentially rupture the pipe. Wrap pipes in unheated spaces such as garages and workshops.

Clean gutters. Removing leaves and other debris will help prevent ice damming. During fast snowmelt, clogged gutters could cause water to seep back into the roof or overflow near the foundation, causing leaks and settling. If you’re unsure about safely using a ladder, consider hiring a pro to do the job and perhaps also look for loose gutters.

Check smoke detectors. AARP suggests when you change the clocks to “fall back” an hour Nov. 7, also change the batteries in your smoke detectors. However, any time your alarm chirps, it’s a sign the battery is low, and you should replace it no matter the time of year. Once you’ve replaced the batteries, test that the smoke detector works. It’s often just a push of a button to make sure the alarm goes off.

Do furnace maintenance. This can be another time to call in a pro to ensure that your furnace runs at peak efficiency. Without semiannual maintenance in the spring and fall, airborne allergens may get trapped in the filters and result in poor indoor air quality, AARP said. It’s likely a good time to change filters.

Prevent winter slips and falls. Check that your best winter shoes are in shape, or consider buying new ones. You should have flat footwear with slip-resistant soles or snow boots that provide traction, said a blog by MultiCare Indigo Urgent Care. Even a quick jaunt outside to grab a newspaper or mail can lead to a nasty fall if you wear floppy slippers.

Use a headlamp and reflective gear. Buy or check the status of a headlamp – does it still work – for short ventures outside, on dark winter afternoons or evenings, such as to take the dog on a quick walk. More clothing options these days come with reflective stripes so drivers can see you easier when you’re walking roadside.

Stock firewood, nonperishable food, prescriptions. These preparations will keep you home safely in case of a power outage or when a snowstorm hampers travel. Consider keeping your prescription medications refilled as soon as allowed so you have a few extra days of medication, suggests a PEMCO blog.

Car safety. Things to take care of ahead of winter include antifreeze, the car’s battery, winter-ready tires, washer fluid and wiper blades. PEMCO said now also is a good time to pack an emergency kit for the trunk with gloves, a water-resistant blanket, ice scraper, flashlight, jumper cables, extra warm clothes, nonperishable food and water and sand or old-fashioned cat litter for traction if you get stuck.

Until spring, live by the “half tank” rule, which means never allowing your gas gauge to dip below that so you won’t have to worry about running out of gas if a weather-snarled commute leaves you stuck on the freeway for hours.

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