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BLOOMINGTON — 'Tis the season for shoveling snow and buying shovels, but consumer advocates suggest shoppers, specifically drivers, pick up a few extra items to protect against the cold.

With three to four inches of snow falling on the Twin Cities Thursday, people stormed local retailers to pick up shovels, deicing salt and sand bags to keep their cars from sliding.

"I've got a 16-year-old with a truck that needs a little help," said Todd Snodgrass of Lexington while loading nearly 500 pounds of sand onto a shopping cart at Farm & Fleet in Bloomington. "The interstates aren't bad, but country roads still have quite a bit of snow on them."

Salt, shovels, sand, snow blowers, ice scrapers, boots and sleds have been very popular the last two days, according to Twin City retailers.

"Hours and days before the snow even hit the ground, people were out here getting stuff. It's flying off the shelves," said Chris Otte, hardware manager at Menards in Normal.

The store has already gone through around 25,000 to 50,000 pounds of sand, he said.

Business is booming at Farm & Fleet also, said assistant manager Kelly Marrs.

On Thursday, people bought sand and shovels. On Friday, after people had shoveled, shoppers came back for deicing salt, Marrs said.

People should consider other merchandise to protect them from the winter weather.

AAA Chicago Motor Club suggests drivers maintain an emergency kit with jumper cables, a small shovel, sand, a flashlight, extra batteries, flares and, of course, a cell phone.

Drivers also should check wiper blades, exhaust and muffler pipes, air filters, heaters, oil and antifreeze, AAA said.

In addition, the Federal Emergency Management Agency tells drivers to carry several blankets, snacks, water, canned fruit, a can opener, matches, extra clothing, rain gear, brightly colored cloth for a flag and games in case a vehicle gets stuck.

Retailers have stocked other interesting items also.

Otte suggests shoppers check out keyhole deicers and deicing windshield cleaning fluid that won't freeze.

Marrs suggests a gasoline additive called Heet that keeps gas lines from freezing.

"All they have to do is put the stuff in their gas tank and then fill up their tank," he said.

Bloomington-Normal retailers packed shelves and warehouses with weatherization gear, preparing for the winter months, Marrs and Otte said. Running out of inventory is not a problem, they said.

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