There are things residents in the path of a storm like Irma can start doing days ahead for food safety, according to a notice from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Atlanta now appears to be right in the path of Irma, which is scheduled to hit the metro area as a tropical storm Monday evening or Tuesday morning, according to the WSB-TV weather center. Power outages will cause food to spoil but that process can be slowed. The USDA recommends:
- Start now making ice blocks in the freezer. Fill small containers like one-quart zip storage bags with water, and put them in the freezer to freeze. Remember, water expands when it freezes so leave a bit of space in the bag or container.
- Freeze refrigerated items that may not get eaten before the storm.
- Group foods together in the freezer. This is the time when hoarding is actually energy-efficient: a packed freezer or fridge that is already cold warms more slowly.
- Have on hand some ready-to-eat foods that don’t require cooking or cooling.
- Try to keep the fridge and freezer doors closed. Remember every time you open your fridge door, you let its temperature warm closer to air temperature. According to the USDA, a refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours if the door is kept closed, and a full freezer will hold its temperature for about 48 hours. That’s 24 hours if half-full.
- Place meat and poultry on a tray to prevent cross contamination of thawing juices if it thaws out in the freezer.
- During an extended power outage, 50 pounds of dry ice should keep a full 18-cubic-feet freezer cold for two days.
The USDA also has a Meat and Poultry Hotline for food safety questions, in English and Spanish, Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time: 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854); or a live chat at AskKaren.gov.