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Holiday shopping in the ice and snow

According to a November survey by Consumer Reports, nearly 193 million of us are holiday shopping this year. And if you've waited until this week, it looks like you'll be shopping in the ice, sleet and snow.

"Each year across the U.S. and Canada, major winter storms wreak havoc on the shopping plans of people preparing for the holidays," said Martin B. Tirado,executive director of the Snow & Ice Management Association. "Without vigilance, holiday shoppers run the risk of damaging their cars or trucks, or worse, risking injury to themselves or their loved ones."

SIMA, a national nonprofit organization representing the snow removal industry, has some tips on safe holiday shopping during a snowstorm:

• Check weather reports. Before venturing out to the local shopping center or mall, check the weather report. If it already has started to sleet or snow, listen to the news to hear about your local road conditions before leaving your home. If the roads are hazardous, consider staying home.

• Snow removal may not begin immediately. Severe storms or blizzards will often limit or slow snow removal efforts. Be prepared to trudge through an unplowed parking lot or street with the proper footwear such as all-weather or snow boots with good traction and by layering your winter clothing with materials that repel moisture and wick away perspiration.

• Understand the hazards of walking on snow or ice. Even in the most manicured shopping environments the snow often falls faster than the snow removal professionals can take it away. Therefore, sidewalks, walkways, steps and parking lots around stores may not be completely free of snow and ice. Keep vigilant when walking during or after a snow event. Be especially careful when transferring your weight from the sidewalk to the curb, particularly when carrying packages or small children. Extra weight in your arms can alter your center of gravity and affect your balance leading to a higher probability of a fall.

• Carefully enter and exit parking lots. Entering and exiting parking lot spaces create hazards even under normal weather conditions. But when the parking lot is covered in snow, it's even more dangerous. Piles of parking lot snow often create smaller parking spaces and barriers that are difficult to see around. Watch for pedestrians and snow removal equipment when you are driving in a parking lot. When walking in a parking lot, watch for vehicles that may be out of control or drivers that don't see you.

• Avoid getting behind snow removal equipment. Good snow removal equipment has strong lights but even so, never get behind moving snow removal equipment, especially if the truck is spreading salt or other materials designed to melt snow and ice.

A few additional things to remember: Parking decks can be hazardous because snow and ice can blow in through the sides and accumulate. And although the snow and ice has been removed, you still need to watch for melted snow that refreezes to create ice.

For more snow and ice removal tips, visit www.sima.org.

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