23 Winter Weather Tips for Your Home, Car and Pets

This week's freezing temps will likely be joined by a snowstorm at the end of this week. 

But there's still time to prepare.

Read on for some helpful tips to help you cope with this dangerously cold weather at home, in your car or when caring for your pets:


  1. Stay indoors if possible. If you must go outdoors, officials urge you dress warmly and wear loose-fitting, layered, lightweight clothing. Wear a scarf over your mouth to protect your lungs.
  2. Watch for signs of hypothermia, including uncontrollable shivering, weak pulse, disorientation, incoherence and drowsiness, and frostbite, including gray, white or yellow skin discoloration, numbness and waxy-feeling skin.
  3. Have safe emergency heating equipment in your home, as well as a flashlight, portable radio and three days' worth of food in case the power goes out.
  4. To prevent frozen pipes, State Farm suggests letting your hot and cold faucets drip overnight and open cabinet doors to allow heat to get to uninsulated pipes under sinks on exterior walls.
  5. Find the water shut-off valve in your home in advance of a water emergency, so you know where to go if a pipe bursts, D.C. Water spokesperson Pamela Mooring advised.
  6. Disconnect garden hoses and, if practical, use an indoor valve to shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets.
  7. If you're going away for an extended period of time, be sure to maintain adequate heat inside your home at no lower than 55 degrees.
  8. Do not place a space heater within three feet of anything combustible.
  9. Go ahead and program your local utility contact information into your cell phone now, before you need them. 

    Important Utility Numbers include:

         -- Pepco: 877-PEPCO-62
         -- Dominion Virginia: 866-DOM-HELP
         -- Baltimore Gas and Electric (BG&E): 877-778-2222
         -- SMECO: 877-74-SMECO
         -- Washington Gas: 800-752-7520 or 703-750-1400
         -- Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC): 800-828-6439


  1. If your car battery is three years old or older, it is more likely to fail as temperatures drops,according to AAA. Never attempt to charge or jump-start a battery that is frozen, as it may rupture or explode.
  2. Never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage.
  3. Make certain your tires are properly inflated.
  4. Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze-up.
  5. If possible, avoid using your parking brake in cold, rainy and snowy weather.
  6. Wintry weather can contribute to the deterioration of your windshield wipers. Worn blades streak and impair vision, which is critical during winter months. AAA says wiper blades should be replaced every year.
  7. Keep your washer fluid topped off with winter formula fluid so it won't freeze. Many of your car's fluids should be checked once a month.


  1. Keep your pets inside. Dogs and cats left outside can freeze, get injured or become lost.
  2. If there are outdoor cats in your area, bang on the hood of your car before starting the engine to give them a chance to escape.
  3. The ASPCA suggests wiping your dogs' legs, feet and abdomens when they come in from snowy or icy conditions. Dogs can ingest salt, antifreeze and other chemicals when licking their paws.
  4. Never leave your pet inside a car unattended.
  5. The Fairfax County Animal Shelter is also offering temporary housing from the cold for cats, dogs or small companion animals. If you or someone you know needs to use this service, call the shelter at 703-324-0208.


  1. Be on the lookout for homeless people, who could get hypothermia as temperatures drop. If you see someone in the D.C. area who needs shelter or warmer clothing, call the following numbers:
         -- The District - 202-535-7252
         -- Arlington County - 703-527-4077
         -- Fairfax County - 703-691-2131
         -- Maryland Crisis Hotline - 301-662-2255
         -- Montgomery County. - 240-777-4000
         -- Prince George's County - 888-731-0999

    Those seeking emergency shelter in Frederick County, Marlyand, can go to one of three shelters. The Religious Coalition for Emergency Human Needs will open their shelter at 5:30 p.m. Monday and Tuesday. The shelter, located at 27 DeGrange St., has 80 beds and provides shelter to both men and women.

    The Frederick Rescue Mission, at 419 W. South St., will operate a day shelter, serving breakfast every day between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. and lunch Monday through Saturday between 12 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. and 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. on Sunday.

    The Frederick Community Action Agency at 100 S. Market St. will operate on its usual schedule. Free meals will be provided between 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
  2. Several warming centers will be open throughout the region to help residents cope with blustery temperatures. In Prince George's County, the following buildings will be warming centers:

Southern Regional Technology and Recreation Complex
7007 Bock Road, Fort Washington, MD 
301-749-4160, TTY 301-203-6030, fax 301-749-4161

Peppermill Village Community Center
610 Hill Road, Landover, MD 
301-350-8410; TTY 301-218-6768

Bowie Community Center 
3209 Stonybrook Drive, Bowie, MD  
301-464-1737; TTY 301-218-6768

Temple Hills Community Center
5300 Temple Hills Road, Temple Hills, MD 
301-894-6616; TTY 301-203-6030

Kentland Community Center Park
2411 Pinebrook Ave., Landover, MD 
301-386-2278; TTY 301-445-4512

Langley Park Community Center
1500 Merrimac Drive, Landover, MD 

Camp Springs Community Center
6420 Allentown Road, Camp Springs, MD 

Laurel Beltsville Senior Activity Center
7120 Contee Road, Laurel, MD 

The City of Manassas is opening one warming shelter:

Manassas Hope for the Homeless
8730 Sudley Road, Manassas, VA 
Open Tuesday and Wednesday; possibly Friday and Saturday.

In Charles County, the following buildings will also operate as warming centers this week:

Capital Clubhouse

3033 Waldorf Market Place, Waldorf, MD 20603
Open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Department of Community Services
8190 Port Tobacco Road, Port Tobacco, MD 
Open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Nanjemoy Community Center
4375 Port Tobacco Road, Nanjemoy
Open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Charles County Public Library, multiple branches:
-- La Plata Branch, 2 Garrett Ave., La Plata
-- P.D. Brown Memorial Branch, 50 Village St., Waldorf
-- Potomac Branch, 3225 Ruth B. Swan Drive, Indian Head
-- Waldorf West, 10405 O'Donn
-- All branches open now through Thursday: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday: 1 to 5 p.m.; Saturday: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Richard R. Clark Senior Center
1210 Charles St., La Plata
Open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

 Brooke Evans contributed to this report.

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