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Published: Thursday, December 22, 2011, 12:01 a.m.

Steps you can take to stay safe driving in ice and snow

Get the blankets, snacks and cat litter ready.
Winter weather already is making for icy roads and snowy mountain passes. Emergency crews are asking drivers to be careful.
Taking a few moments to plan for trips can make all the difference when a storm strikes, said Trooper Keith Leary with the Washington State Patrol.
Using weather-appropriate tires will prevent many kinds of crashes, he said. During ice and snow, the most important reminders are to slow down and increase the distance between you and other cars.
"Those are the two factors that can keep you out of a collision," he said.
People also should keep their gas tanks full in the wintertime, especially for trips, Leary said.
The extra weight improves traction, and if you get stuck somewhere, you can run your car to keep warm.
If a storm is predicted, make plans for how you'll get to work and also how you'll get home, state transportation spokeswoman Kris Olsen said. Talk to a supervisor and see what company policy is regarding storms.
Troopers also ask people not to abandon their cars when it's snowing. If you get stuck, first responders will come; they just might take awhile, Leary said.
If cars are left behind, the plows have difficulty clearing the roads, Leary said. Left-behind cars can be struck by other vehicles, as can the people returning to get the cars.
If there's a snow plow on the road, try to stay about 15 car lengths behind it, Olsen said. Snow and ice might fly off the plow blades, and the plows can take up more than one lane. If you have to pass a plow, give them a wide berth.
People can help better the odds that county roads remain passable, county road maintenance director Roy Scalf said.
County crews have to prioritize arterials for snow and ice removal, he said. They might not get to everywhere before people leave home in the mornings.
During storms, county crews also ask people to try to park in driveways or as much off the street as possible, so the plows can get through.
Last, if you're heading over the hill toward Eastern Washington, expect delays during bad weather, especially in Gold Bar and Sultan, Leary said.
Conditions in the passes can change rapidly, Olsen said.
Crews sometimes have to shut down passes for avalanche control, and the wait can be long. Keep supplies in the car to stay warm and busy just in case, she said.
Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com.
Pack well
During the winter, experts say, you should keep the following items in your vehicle: flashlight, batteries, blanket, snacks, water, gloves, boots, first-aid kit. Also useful: tire chains, ice scraper/snow brush, jumper cables, road flares, sand or cat litter for tire traction and warm clothing.
Story tags » PoliceRoadsTraffic SafetyWeatherSnohomish County

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