The worst of winter has yet to come. But we all know it will. ... probably sooner than later.

So before the drifts pile high and the wind chill measures in double digits below zero, think of how you and your neighbors might keep in touch, especially if we're all locked in to keep COVID-19 out.

One way to make sure your neighborhood gets through winter is to create a list of your neighbors' names addresses and cell phone numbers. Sure, you might be on speaking terms with many of the people on your block, but just having a current contact list could be a lifesaver. If you're tech-minded, you can use one of the many address book applications available online.

If you see the mail pile up outside a home or find it strange that there's been no activity there in several days, you can call to check on things. If no one answers the phone or a knock on the door and you feel the need to call the authorities, you have the owner's contact information handy.

A side benefit of creating a neighborhood list is that it forces you to talk to your neighbors.

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Pay special attention to elderly neighbors or those you feel might be struggling with the snow. If you have a snow blower and you're already outside, go ahead and go down the block or clear your neighbors' approaches.

And be aware that if you or a neighbor is having trouble paying heating bills, there is help available. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission's cold weather rule protects utility customers from having their heat turned off between Oct. 15 and April 15.

The Minnesota Department of Commerce’s Energy Assistance Program helps households pay their heating bills through winter. The program can also be used to have fuel delivered to your home, repair broken heating systems and even improve internet access.

Homeowners and renters with income at or below 50% of the state’s median income are eligible for assistance. For a family of four, that would be $27,178. Last year, more than 117,000 Minnesota households received assistance, with an average of more than $500 in aid per household.

To find out if your household is eligible, call 1-800-657-3710 and press 1; visit the Commerce Department’s Energy Assistance Program web page, mn.gov/commerce/consumers/consumer-assistance/energy-assistance; or search for “energy assistance” at mn.gov/commerce for energy assistance information.