For many people in the Midwest and South this spring, tornado season has been non-stop. The year 2019 has already become the fourth-worst year for tornadoes in U.S. weather history, with some 200 hitting the Midwest in less than two weeks. Natural disasters, storms, and hurricanes can cause power outages and force people to evacuate.
But when you get back home and the power’s back on, how can you tell how long the outage was? One woman posted an amazing hack that can help you figure out what happened and also keep your family safe.
While fridges and freezers are great for keeping food safe, when they go out, things can get gross pretty quickly. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, food that has been in a fridge without power for just four hours can go bad. Meat and seafood are especially susceptible, but dairy products and cut fruit or vegetables can also go bad. The problem is that temperatures can quickly rise above 40°F (approx. 4°C), which food scientists call “the danger zone,” because harmful bacteria such as e.coli can survive and thrive.
As for the freezer, the process can take longer, up to 48 hours if it’s full or just 24 hours if it’s half-full. If food goes above freezing point, it can start to defrost, which will spoil the texture and quality; and if left long enough, this will allow potentially lethal bacteria to begin growing.
What is there to do to make absolutely sure that your food hasn’t gone bad? Well, obviously if you get back home after an evacuation and the fridge and freezer aren’t cold enough, that’s a great sign that you should discard anything that could have spoiled.
But what about the times when you leave the house in the event of a disaster or emergency and the power is on when you return? This doesn’t mean that the food didn’t get exposed to dangerous temperatures in your absence. Moreover, re-cooling or re-freezing food once it already has bacteria on it won’t keep you safe, as the germs will simply go into hibernation mode.
Thankfully, North Carolina woman Sheila Pulanco Russell shared a great hack on Facebook, called the “one cup tip” a few years ago, after Hurricane Matthew had thousands of people leaving their homes to escape the ravages of the storm and the heavy flooding that followed.
It’s incredibly simple and affordable—in fact it costs just 25 cents. By placing a quarter on top of a cup full of frozen water, you can know exactly what transpired in your freezer in your absence. How does it work?
If your freezer stayed in operation during your absence, the coin will be exactly where you left it—on top of the ice. If the power went out long enough to allow your food to get to unsafe temperatures, then the coin will have fallen to the bottom of the cup. As the water re-froze, the weight of the coin will have kept it on the bottom.
It’s also possible that you may find the coin somewhere in the middle. This would be due to a shorter power outage and would generally indicate that your food might still be good. The most important thing, as Pulanco Russell wrote, is that “if you don’t feel good about your food, just throw it out. The main thing is for all to be safe.”
As Pulanco Russell noted, “it would also be a great idea to leave this in your freezer all the time and if you lose power for any reason you will have this tip to fall back on.” So stay safe this storm season; it will only cost you a quarter and could save your life!
For those of you that are evacuating from the coast, I just heard a great tip. It's called the one cup tip. You put a…