Hurricane season is here; use these tips to get ready this year

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 6, 2018

No matter where you live or what type of severe weather is likely for your area, it is important to be prepared.  Along the Gulf Coast, hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30, with the peak period occurring in September – October.  Preparedness keeps more people from being hurt and is also a key to food safety during a hurricane and the floods that can accompany it.


Residents in Lower Alabama and surrounding areas subject to hurricanes should keep an adequate supply of food, water, and emergency equipment on hand.  This includes enough canned food to last four to five days, a hand operated can opener, battery-powered radio, extra batteries, and emergency cooking equipment like a camp stove with fuel to operate it.

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One of the most common questions we receive at the Extension Office deals with food safety, or handling of food without power.  Here are a few tips for you to clip and save if you find yourself without electricity,


Steps to Follow to Prepare for a Possible Weather Emergency:
Keep an appliance thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer. An appliance thermometer will indicate the temperature in the refrigerator and freezer in case of a power outage and help determine the safety of the food.

Make sure the freezer is at 0 °F (Fahrenheit) or below and the refrigerator is at 40 °F or below.
Freeze containers of water for ice to help keep food cold in the freezer, refrigerator, or coolers after the power is out.
Freeze refrigerated items such as leftovers, milk, and fresh meat and poultry that you may not need immediately-this helps keep them at a safe temperature longer.
Plan ahead and know where dry ice and block ice can be purchased.
Store food on shelves that will be safely out of the way of contaminated water in case of flooding.
Have coolers on hand to keep refrigerator food cold if the power will be out for more than 4 hours. Purchase or make ice cubes and store in the freezer for use in the refrigerator or in a cooler. Freeze gel packs ahead of time for use in coolers.
Group food together in the freezer—this helps the food stay cold longer.
Steps to Follow During and After the Weather Emergency:

Never taste a food to determine its safety!
Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature.
The refrigerator will keep food safely cold for about 4 hours if it is unopened. A full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full and the door remains closed).
Food may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is at 40 °F or below.
Obtain block ice or dry ice to keep your refrigerator and freezer as cold as possible if the power is going to be out for a prolonged period of time. Fifty pounds of dry ice should hold an 18-cubic-foot full freezer for 2 days.
If the power has been out for several days, then check the temperature of the freezer with an appliance thermometer or food thermometer. If the food still contains ice crystals or is at 40 °F or below, the food is safe.
If a thermometer has not been kept in the freezer, then check each package of food to determine its safety. If the food still contains ice crystals, the food is safe.
Discard refrigerated perishable food such as meat, poultry, fish, soft cheeses, milk, eggs, leftovers, and deli items after 4 hours without power.
When in Doubt, Throw it Out!
In emergency conditions, the following foods could be kept at room temperature (above 40 degrees F) a few days.  Still, discard anything that turns moldy or has an unusual odor or appearance:

·      High-acid foods such as relishes, pickles, non-creamy salad dressings, jams, and jellies; however, they may spoil sooner.

·      Butter, margarine

·      Fresh fruits and vegetables, fruits and coconut

·      Opened jars of peanut butter, jelly, relish, taco sauce, barbecue sauce, mustard, ketchup and olives

·      Hard and processed cheeses

·      Fruit juices

·      Fresh herbs and spices

·      Flour and nuts

·      Fruit pies

·      Bread, rolls, cakes and muffins

DISCARD: the following foods if kept over four hours above 40 Degrees F

·      Raw or cooked meat, poultry and seafood

·      Milk or cream, yogurt, soft cheese

·      Cooked pasta, pasta salads

·      Custard, chiffon or cheese pies

·      Fresh eggs, egg substitutes

·      Meat –topped pizza, lunchmeats

·      Casseroles, stews, or soup

·      Mayonnaise and tartar sauce

·      Cream-filled pastries

POWER’S OUT: In Your freezer

Without power, a full upright or chest freezer will keep everything frozen for about 2 days.  A half-full freezer will keep food frozen for 1 day.

If power will be coming back on fairly soon, you can make the food last longer by keeping the door shut closed and covering it with blankets.

If power will be off for an extended period, take foods to friends’ freezers, locate a commercial freezer, or use dry ice.  Source: “A Consumer’s Guide to Food Safety: Severe Storms and Hurricanes”; Consumers with food safety questions can phone the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854); TTY, 1-800-256-7072; Facets: May/June 2018


How to Determine What Food to Keep or Discard

Do not eat any food that may have come into contact with flood water.
Discard any food that is not in a waterproof container if there is any chance that it has come into contact with flood water. Food containers that are not waterproof include those with screw-caps, snap lids, pull tops, and crimped caps. Also, discard cardboard juice/milk/baby formula boxes and home canned foods if they have come in contact with flood water, because they cannot be effectively cleaned and sanitized.
Inspect canned foods and discard any food in damaged cans. Can damage is shown by swelling, leakage, punctures, holes, fractures, extensive deep rusting, or crushing/denting severe enough to prevent normal stacking or opening with a manual, wheel-type can opener.
Pots, Pans, Dishes, and Utensils

Thoroughly wash metal pans, ceramic dishes, and utensils (including can openers) with soap and water, using hot water if available. Rinse and then sanitize them by boiling in clean water or immersing them for 15 minutes in a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of drinking water (or the cleanest, clearest water available).

·       Thoroughly wash countertops with soap and water, using hot water if available. Rinse and then sanitize them by applying a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of drinking water (or the cleanest, clearest water available). Allow to air-dry.  Source: “A Consumer’s Guide to Food Safety: Severe Storms and Hurricanes”.  USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline;

We hope you will clip these tips and put them in a “safe place” you can put your hands on when necessary.  These tips will help you be prepared for power outages and inclement weather.