GAINESVILLE, Ga. — The United States has been beaten with an Arctic Blast since the beginning of January. The U.S. saw three winter storms in January. Many states saw blizzard and tornado conditions simultaneously. Millions of Americans lost power to their homes and businesses.
A Buffalo Bills and Pittsburgh Steelers NFL football game was pushed back due to extreme cold temperatures and heavy snowfall. Before the game was postponed, meteorologists were urging Bills and Steelers fans if they attend the game to wear four to five layers of clothing. However, meteorologists were concerned over the negative temperatures and encouraged people not to attend the game because of the risk of hypothermia. As Americans were going to vote in the recent Iowa Caucuses, Iowa was facing record low temperatures.
Keeping food cold in a freezer, refrigerator or ice box can become complicated as a snowstorm or ice storm rolls in and causes power outages. If the temperature is cold enough, some people will put their frozen foods outside. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration offers some advice to keep cold food cold during extreme weather.
The FDA notes:
· Make sure you have appliance thermometers in your refrigerator and freezer.
o Check to ensure that the freezer temperature is at or below 0 degrees F, and the refrigerator is at or below 40 degrees F.
o In case of a power outage, the appliance thermometers will indicate the temperatures in the refrigerator and freezer to help you determine if the food is safe.
· Freeze containers of water for ice to help keep food cold in the freezer, refrigerator, or coolers in case the power goes out. If your normal water supply is contaminated or unavailable, the melting ice will also supply drinking water.
· 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.
· Group food together in the freezer. This helps the food stay cold longer.
· Have coolers on hand to keep refrigerated food cold if the power is out for more than 4 hours.
· Purchase or make ice cubes in advance and freeze gel packs ahead of time. Store all of these in the freezer for future use in the refrigerator or in coolers.
· Check out local sources to know where dry ice and block ice can be purchased in case it should be needed.
· Store food on shelves that will be safely out of the way of contaminated water in case of flooding.
· Make sure to have a supply of bottled water stored where it will be as safe as possible from flooding. If your bottled water has an odor, do not drink or use it. Instead, dispose of it, or if applicable, call your bottled water provider to make arrangements to get a replacement.
· Cooler temperatures keep bacteria like Salmonella down to a minimum. If some foods begin to get warm, they could start growing salmonella. The FDA gives instructions of how to keep food cold if the power goes out.
If power is lost:
· Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature.
o The refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours if it is unopened.
o A full freezer will keep the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed.
Buy dry or block ice to keep the refrigerator as cold as possible if the power is going to be out for a prolonged period of time. Fifty pounds of dry ice should keep an 18 cubic foot, fully stocked freezer cold for two days.
If you plan to eat refrigerated or frozen meat, poultry, fish, or eggs while they are still at safe temperatures, it is important that each item is thoroughly cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature to ensure that any foodborne bacteria that may be present are destroyed. However, if perishable food has been held at room temperature for 2 hours or more (or 1 hour if outdoor temperatures are above 90 degrees F) must be discarded.
When power is restored:
o If an appliance thermometer was kept in the freezer, check the temperature when the power comes back on. If the freezer thermometer reads 40 degrees F or below, the food is safe and may be refrozen.
o If a thermometer has not been kept in the freezer, check each package of food to determine its safety. You can’t rely on appearance or odor. If the food still contains ice crystals or is 40 degrees F or below, it is safe to refreeze or cook.
o If the power was out for no more than 4 hours, refrigerated food should be safe as long as the doors were kept closed. When the power comes back on, check the temperature in the refrigerator or of the food. Discard any refrigerated perishable food (such as meat, poultry, seafood, milk, eggs, or leftovers) that has been at refrigerator temperatures above 40 degrees F for 4 hours or more. Perishable foods with temperatures that are 45 degrees F or below (measured with a food thermometer) should be safe but should be cooked and consumed as soon as possible.
It is also important that poultry producers inform their employees about potential risks when cleaning up after a snowstorm or ice storm. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration gives some ideas of how to keep employees safe while maintaining their facilities.
Cleaning snow from roofs and other heights:
· Before cleaning off any roof, a person must go and check to see if the structure is stable enough because a heavy amount of snow could cause the roof to collapse.
· Snow can hide skylights and if people are not careful there is potential for injury if someone were to fall through the skylight.
· Overhead down powerlines may also be a risk.
· The best prevention of injury is to use other means to clean off snow other than using personnel.
· If employees must be used it is important to have ladders, aerial lifts, the proper footwear and personal fall arrest systems.
Avoiding falls on ice and/or snow:
· Business owners should have walkways cleared before employees begin walking on them.
· An employee must have a pair of water resistant and lined boots.
· The boots need to have good tread.
· When walking over a questionable walkway, take small steps and walk slow, as a person might need a change in traction.