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What to do if your car breaks down in the cold

Icicles formed by spray from firefighters tending to an overnight fire cover a vehicle, Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015, in Jersey City, N.J. Dangerously cold air has sent temperatures plummeting into the single digits around the U.S., with wind chills driving them even lower. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

WASHINGTON — On a windy and cold Sunday morning, drivers had extra company on the road: Safety patrols from the Virginia Department of Transportation traveled I-395 looking for motorists who needed help.

Before leaving the house, you should have a fully-charged cell phone and a mobile charger for the car.

And cars don’t like the extreme cold, so if you’re stranded on the side of the road, make sure there’s a winter emergency kit in the vehicle, which includes flares and colored rags (to tie to your antenna so rescuers can spot you).

Also, AAA says, pack a flashlight, wool blankets, warm clothes, food and water.

Call for help right away if you’re stranded, then set the flares outside your car. Don’t try and walk to safety, AAA says.

Stay in your car only if it’s safe from being hit by other vehicles. If your engine still turns over, run your heater for a few minutes every hour — that’s if you have enough gas while waiting for help.

Try to avoid hypothermia by using the blankets, AAA says. Use the extra warm clothing and huddle with other passengers to maintain body heat.

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