COLUMBUS - Cherokee County's first snow of winter made for a picturesque holiday weekend, but the further the mercury drops, the greater the potential for a hazardous situation.

The National Weather Service's seven-day forecast expects almost exclusively sub-freezing temperatures this coming week. Wavering between 'mostly sunny' and 'mostly cloudy' throughout the week, the anticipated high barely peaks into the upper 30's a few days, with the wind chill potentially hitting single digits some evenings.

While there is no expected precipitation, this time of year it is important to remember that heavy snows and icy conditions can occur at any time, and dangerously cold temperatures present their own set of dangers. Here are some winter weather tips to help make this season safe for you and your loved ones:

Before you leave home

Make sure you have an emergency kit in your vehicle, in case you are stranded. This should include a blanket, a battery-operated radio, snacks, jumper cables and a small shovel.

If possible, maintain a full tank of gas. Make sure anti-freeze levels are correct and the battery and ignition systems, heater and defrost, and windshield wipers are functioning properly.

When you are out on the road

Avoid traveling, if possible. Seventy percent of winter storm-related deaths are related to traffic crashes on ice or snow covered roads.

If you must go out, DO NOT pass a snow plow; this is extremely dangerous as snow plows are wider than one traffic lane. Avoid getting squeezed on the road (and avoid limited visibility caused by flying snow and ice) by not passing snow plows.

Slow down and allow more stopping distance between cars. It takes three to 12 times more distance to stop on icy or snowy roads. Avoid making last-minute decisions while driving.

Do not be distracted by electronic equipment (cell phones, Ipods, etc.) Driving is the primary responsibility; anything that takes away from that responsibility increases the chance of an accident.

Stay at least three to four car lengths behind spreader trucks to avoid windshield damage and to allow for adequate stopping distance. Spreader trucks have spinners that distribute traction materials with pre-wetting salt solutions across two lanes of traffic. The trucks weigh up to 54,000 pounds when loaded and move slowly.

If you can, use alternative transportation during snow storms to help reduce the number of vehicles on the roadways. This gives snow plows and spreader trucks more room to operate.

Outside, at your home

Shovel your sidewalks as soon as practical after the storm stops; be careful of overexerting yourself. Also, have some rock salt on hand to remove ice.