Ice storm hits Manhattan — keeping food safe

The power starting going on and off about midnight. A tree branch went through a neighbor’s  car windshield at 3 a.m. The electricity has been out since 4 a.m.

And it’s going to get worse.

The freezing rain and ice storms throughout the Midwest hit Manhattan (Kansas, that is) hard last night. Tree branches loaded with ice are falling every five minutes. So after a leisurely morning spent decorating the Christmas tree and praising our gas fireplace, gas stove, gas water heater and gas barbecue, we couldn’t take it anymore and walked the dogs up to Kansas State University — which is closed, but does have electricity and Internet.

Before leaving I noticed the refrigerator contents were warming up. Same with the freezer. We’ve been eating our way through the perishables, and moved the high-risk foods to a cooler and placed it on the front porch, where it is 32F.

In anticipation of the storm, USDA sent an advisory yesterday, Keeping food safe during an emergency. I can’t really argue with most of the points, below.

And if the news is slow getting out on the listservs, you now know why.

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 or below 0° F and the refrigerator is at or below 40° F.

* 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 four 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 after the weather emergency:

* 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.

* When in Doubt, Throw it Out.

This entry was posted in Food Safety Policy, Raw Food and tagged , , by Douglas Powell. Bookmark the permalink.

About Douglas Powell

A former professor of food safety and the publisher of, Powell is passionate about food, has five daughters, and is an OK goaltender in pickup hockey. Download Doug’s CV here. Dr. Douglas Powell editor, retired professor, food safety 3/289 Annerley Rd Annerley, Queensland 4103 61478222221 I am based in Brisbane, Australia, 15 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time