Friday, February 17, 2012

Like it or not the Snow is Coming! Are You Ready?

At this writing Central Pennsylvania has been experiencing unseasonably warm temperatures and very little snow. Typically by mid-February we have enjoyed our annual Farm Show blizzard as well as several other visits from the Snow Fairies. Well, don’t get too comfortable, I have been assured by my friends, the weather gurus, that snow is coming!
With a snowstorm comes an occasional ice storm. These ice storms not only create havoc on the roadways but can cause interruptions in our power supply. Will you be ready if you lose power as a result of a storm? Read on for some recommendations from USDA.

Always keep meat, poultry, fish, and eggs refrigerated at or below   40 °F and frozen food at or below 0 °F. 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) if the door remains closed. Obtain dry or block ice to keep your refrigerator as cold as possible if the power is going to be out for a prolonged period of time. Plan ahead and know where dry ice and block ice can be purchased.
Be prepared for an emergency by having items on hand that don’t require refrigeration and can be eaten cold or heated on the outdoor grill. Shelf-stable food, boxed or canned milk, water, and canned goods are great to have on hand. Make sure you have ready-to-use baby formula for infants and pet food. Be sure to keep a hand-held can opener for an emergency.
Coolers are a great help for keeping food cold if the power will be out for more than 4 hours—have a couple on hand along with frozen gel packs. When your freezer is not full, keep items close together—this helps the food stay cold longer.
Food thermometers and appliance thermometers will help you know if the food is at safe temperatures. The refrigerator temperature should be 40 °F or below; the freezer, 0 °F or lower. If you’re not sure a particular food is cold enough, take its temperature with a food thermometer.
People often wonder if it is safe to take the food from your refrigerator or freezer and put it outside in the snow…well just like our friend Frosty the Snowman, the sun’s rays can melt the food or increase the temperature, even when it is very cold outside. There is also the chance that your food may come in contact with an animal. Consider making your own ice by placing tubs or buckets of water outside. Once the water freezes, use it to keep your food cold inside your refrigerator or cooler.
What about the safety of refreezing food that has partially thawed? You will be happy to know that the food may be safely refrozen if the food still contains ice crystals or is at 40 °F or below. Be sure to discard any items in either the freezer or the refrigerator that have come into contact with raw meat juices. Partial thawing and then refreezing may reduce the quality of some food, but the food will remain safe to eat.
One caution, Never taste food to determine its safety! You will have to evaluate each item separately. Refrigerated food should be safe as long as power is out no more than 4 hours. Discard any perishable foods (such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and leftovers) that have been above 40 °F for 2 hours or more.

Penn State has developed a brochure just for this type of emergency, go to to download a free copy or contact your Penn State Extension office and ask them to provide you with one. You may also want to go to for more food safety information.

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