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winter_storm_red_house(MCT)—This season has been one for the record books, chilling even areas that usually escape winter’s worst.

To be sure you’re ready for the next flurry of cold, ice or snow, take some time to check a few things:

• Find your water shut-off valve. Pipes that freeze may also burst. If they do, you’ll need to quickly shut off the water supply or risk thousands of dollars in water-related repairs later. If you can’t locate the shut-off valve, ask a plumber for help. In addition, review your homeowners insurance policy to see what’s covered in case of water damage from burst pipes or other causes.

• Examine your roof. The long icicles that look wonderful in photos may signify an ice dam. To avoid this, make sure your attic is properly insulated and ventilated. This will prevent excess heat from melting snow, which trickles down until it re-freezes at the cold edge of the roof, creating a dam. Another important precaution is to clear debris from gutters and downspouts.

• Check your sump pump. To test whether your pump can properly drain melting snow or ice, pour a few buckets of water in the sump pit and see what happens.

• Arrange for snow removal. Before you’re snowed in, take time to research and connect with a reputable local snow removal company. Consider asking to be put on a list for automatic plowing when snow reaches a certain height. If you own a snow blower, make sure it’s working. If you don’t have one, consider asking a neighbor if you can use theirs in exchange for sharing fuel and maintenance costs. Also, keep some de-icer on hand.

• Prep your ride. Winter driving carries with it the risk of having a breakdown, running off the road or getting stuck. Just in case, prepare an emergency kit and other supplies. Stock a snow shovel, ice scraper and brush, jumper cables, flashlight, blanket or sleeping bag, bag of sand or kitty litter, warm clothing, water, nonperishable food, can of tire inflator and a first-aid kit. When bad weather is forecast, fill up your gas tank and make sure tires are properly inflated.

Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie’s List, a resource for local consumer reviews on everything from home repair to health care.

Distributed by MCT Information Services