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Winter survival kit -- don't leave home without it

Minnesota is known for having two seasons: road construction and winter.

Although road construction doesn't appear to be ending any time soon, it does look like Rochester may have a real Minnesota winter. We are definitely overdue.

With the two-week winter break soon approaching, many teens will be braving the roads, driving over the 10,000 lakes and going through the woods to grandma's house. It's highly advisable this snowy season that we keep our cars well-equipped for winter.

No car is safe without a winter survival kit. You can make your own, or if you are feeling especially lazy, go out to the store and purchase one. According to www.crh.noaa.gov, you should include several items in your car:

1. A shovel, tire chains and jumper cables. These can be used if the problem is as simple as digging out a little snow to drive out your car.

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2. A first aid kit that is fully equipped to help any injured person. There should also be enough extra clothing, blankets or sleeping bags for everyone.

3. A flashlight, a radio and extra batteries for both. It is also wise to carry a flare gun, preferably with a few flares. If you do not have access to one, a bright piece of cloth or any sort of item used as a signal will work.

4. Candles, matches (preferably weatherproof), an empty coffee can and non-perishable food. The can is used to melt snow for water. Don't keep bottles of water in the car. They will most likely freeze and burst. Examples of non-perishable food would be candy, energy bars, nuts or canned foods and an opener.

5. A cell phone. Be sure to charge the battery before leaving for a trip. Also, dial 5-1-1 on your cell phone for current weather conditions.

Scheduling a tune-up before taking a trip would also be a good idea. I understand it can be expensive but get the works. Have your tires and treads checked along with your brakes. Also, top off any fluids, especially anti-freeze, and always carry a de-icer.

The Web site also said to be sure to watch forecasts before leaving. If the weather is bad, push the trip back a day. This is safer than braving the elements and possibly ending up in a ditch. If the weather is bad, adjust your speed and travel in groups or caravans. Although the gas prices are at times unreasonable, always leave with a full tank of gas, and always travel with a safety kit.

Remember, try to remain in the car, and only venture out to construct some sort of signal. It is all right to turn on the car every once and a while, but be sure to vent the car with a clean exhaust pipe and an open window.

For more information, look online at www.redcrosslive.org, or www.crh.noaa.gov.

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Ashley Wong is a junior at Mayo High School. To respond to an opinion column, call 252-1111, category TEEN (8336); write Teen Beat, Post-Bulletin, P.O. Box 6118, Rochester, MN 559036118 or send e-mail to teenbeat@postbulletin.com.

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