There’s a lot you need to do when a hurricane is coming your way, from braving the long lines at the store so you can stock up on water and essentials to boarding up your windows. But one of the most important things you can do is ensure that, even if the power goes out, you’ll have a food supply that’s safe to eat. Thankfully, the USDA has a guide to help you keep your food safe during — and after — a hurricane.
Will your area experience heavy rains within the next 24 hours? Heavy rains may cause flooding & power loss. It’s not too late to make sure your food stays safe! Tips you should know as #Dorian approaches here: https://t.co/Pv2f4yWght pic.twitter.com/GLjQJ81CQo
How to prepare
To prepare for the possibility of power loss, there are a few things to do.
- Make sure your refrigerator and freezer are set to 40F or below and 0F or below, respectively.
- Group the food in your freezer together; it helps keep things colder. A full freezer also stays colder than a half-empty one.
- Stock up on coolers and freeze quart-sized zip lock bags of water ahead of time; you can use them to keep food cool later.
- Find out where you can buy big blocks of ice and dry ice.
- Freeze leftovers and perishable foods from your fridge that you wouldn’t eat within the first couple hours of a power outage.
What to do if the power goes out
When the power does go out, here’s how to proceed.
- Keep the fridge and freezer doors closed: A full freezer can stay at a food safe temperature for almost 48 hours, while a fridge only stays cold for about four hours.
- Keep animal products on one side of the freezer on a tray so that if they begin to thaw, the raw meat juices won’t contaminate other foods.
- Use block and dry ice to keep things cool.
What to do when the storm is over
It can be tempting to try to recoup your losses after a big storm, but it’s important to be careful about what food you keep.
- Check the temperature of your fridge and freezer, throwing out anything that’s been stored above 40F for more than two hours.
- Throw away any food that smells or looks weird or feels warm, and only re-freeze foods if they still have ice crystals in them.
- If you aren’t sure if your food is safe to eat, throw it out: You don’t want to end up with salmonella or listeriosis because you decided to take chances on a thawed package of store-brand pizza rolls.
If your home was affected by a flood, you should discard anything that came in touch with the flood water, which is usually very hazardous to your health. You should also inspect canned food and food in watertight containers to make sure they haven’t been damaged.
With these tips, you can minimize food loss and also make sure that you’re eating food that’s safe in the wake of the storm. Don’t forget to stock up on non-perishable foods before the storm, too; the best laid plans with regard to the freezer and fridge can go to waste in an unpredictable weather event.
And when it’s all said and done, wash the stress away with a summer cocktail: