Flooding often accompanies hurricanes. Persons living in areas subject to floods should be ready to raise refrigerators or freezers by putting cement blocks under their corners. Canned goods and other foods kept in a basement or low cabinets should be moved higher. Flood waters may carry silt, raw sewage, oil, or chemical waste. If food and equipment have been in contact with flood waters, follow these “Safe Handling” recommendations.
Handling “Flooded” Foods and Equipment:
As during other types of disasters, electricity to the refrigerator and freezer may be off. The key to determining the safety of foods in the refrigerator and freezer is how cold they are since most foodborne illness is caused by bacteria that multiply rapidly at temperatures above 40 °F. A full freezer should keep food safe for about two days; a half-full freezer, for about a day. Add bags of ice or dry ice to the freezer if it appears the power will be off for an extended time. Refrigerated food should be safe as long as the power is out for no more than about four hours. Discard any perishable food that has been above 40 °F for two hours or more and any food that has an unusual odor, color, or texture. Leave the door closed; every time you open it, needed cold air escapes causing the food inside to reach unsafe temperatures.
If it appears the power will be off for more than four hours, transfer refrigerated perishable foods to an insulated cooler filled with ice or frozen gel packs. Keep a thermometer in the cooler to be sure the food stays at 40 °F or below. Some foods may look and smell fine, but if they have been at room temperature longer than two hours, bacteria able to cause foodborne illness can begin to multiply very rapidly. Some types will produce toxins, which are not destroyed by cooking and can cause illness.
Power Outage Chart:
Discard- The following foods should be discarded if kept over two hours above 40 degrees F:
Save- The following foods should keep at room temperature for a few days. Still, discard anything that turns moldy or has an unusual odor:
For more detailed information on food safety during natural disasters & other events, see the following fact sheets on Clemson’s Home and Garden Information Page: Food Safety in Power Outages, Food Safety in Freezer Failure, Food Safety in Hurricanes & Floods, Food Safety After a Tornado, Food Safety After a Fire.
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