Living out of a Powerless Refrigerator

screen shot from The Day After TomorrowThe zombie apocalypse–I mean, Hurricane Sandy–in unfolding on the East Coast as of this writing. Although it is still a Category 1 storm, its barometric pressure usually supports a Category 4 rating, and it’s about to merge with another weather system the likes of which have only been seen in the clunker film The Day After Tomorrow.  When I was a small child, the very concept of hurricanes terrified me, what with all of their moisture and millibars and torrential winds and flying palm trees. Hurricanes on vacation were especially nuisance-some because no tropical postcard or tourist ad ever depicts a rainstorm. I’ve been on the school bus during Hurricane Gloria, ridden out hurricanes and tropical storms while at the beach in South Carolina and Delaware, survived a night in a tent during a tornado in south Jersey, and dug through two feet of snow after blizzards in Syracuse, New York.

I hate weather. I mean I admit that I’m not being fair. I don’t like the endless summer here in Walla Walla with one gorgeous sunny day after another for three months, especially as the heat ratchets up through August, peaking somewhere around 110 degrees. Rain once in a while is nice to remind us to take a moment with a cup of tea and a good book and give ourselves a rest. But now that it’s been raining here for two weeks I am itching for blue skies again. I’m never satisfied with the weather, and I get that I’m pretty much impossible to please.

Sometimes to add to my meteorological cynicism, the power goes out. Winds too vigorus? Behold the darkness. Flash floods destroying a power substation? Get used to real quiet without electrical humming. While in most of my power outage experience the lights were restored relatively quickly, sometimes there is just too much damage to get things back and running in the same day. So remember some simple rules about eating at home during your time off the grid (list from the Huff Post, augmented by me):

  • Check the temperature of both the fridge and freezer. Do this with a thermometer, not your elbow.
  • If you don’t have a way to read the temperature in the freezer, check each package. If the food contains water crystals, then it may still be safe.
  • Discard all perishable foods that have been kept in a fridge or freezer above 40 degrees for more than two hours, bacteria can multiply rapidly between 40 and 140 degrees. And the last thing we need right now is a zombie outbreak.
  • Discard any food that is not in a waterproof container if there’s a chance it came in contact with flood waters. Also discard wooden cutting boards, plastic utensils, baby bottle nipples and pacifiers if they may have been in contact with flood waters. Seriously, no baby bottle nipples soaked in flood waters, okay?
  • Wash all metal pans, ceramic plates and utensils that may have come into contact with flood waters with hot soapy water. Sanitize by boiling them in clean water or by immersing them for 15 minutes in a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of drinking water.
  • Use only bottled water that has not been exposed to flood waters. If you don’t have bottle water, you can boil tap water for safe use. Otherwise, expect to become a zombie by midnight.
  • Never, ever, taste food to determine its safety–it could turn you into the walking undead.

Also, should you see zombies on the loose after the waters recede, get to the second floor of a safe building and close off the stairs, and you can figure out a plan from there. Stay safe, people!

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Categories: Pop Culture

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