Tuesday, February 1, 2011

If your power goes out during a blizzard or ice storm


It has been a while since I've experienced a power outage in winter, but I am rehearsing in my mind which precautions to take. I am keeping candles and matches at the ready. Since the water heater should continue to work, I will be able to make lukewarm tea to make up for the lack of a coffeemaker.

And I remember some years ago being without refrigeration. This is always a judgment call, depending on the insulation of the house and outside temperature.

  • If the power is out for a day, the food inside a refrigerator will stay cold as long as no one holds the door open for any period of time. The food in the freezer will start to thaw a little. Looking at the ice cubes is a good way to gauge how rapidly the meat is thawing. Once it thaws, it will have to be eaten soon.
  • After a few days, the food inside a refrigerator will start to spoil unless the temperature in the house is in the 30's, by which time you may have to evacuate.
But here is a trick I learned one sad winter when I was without refrigeration for three days. Placing food in a cooler and putting the cooler outdoors in freezing temperatures will preserve it as long as temperatures stay below freezing. You may need to lock or tie it up to keep dogs or woodland creatures out of it.

I kept a second cooler of food in the garage and it kept my refrigerator contents at an adequate temperature for three days. Here, I was lucky. This location is more variable in terms of temperature fluctuations. Fortunately, I have a "gift" for knowing when milk is about to go bad 24 hours before it actually does.

Obviously, the bigger issue is staying warm. But I figure everyone writes about that, so I chose a less commonly addressed consideration.

The blizzard that is headed for Chicago as I write this is predicted to be the third worst blizzard in recorded history. And it may affect a third of the country. Stay warm out there, my friends.

dj runnels
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