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Gather provisions you'll need in storm before Weather Channel says a hurricane is coming

Shoppers at the New Port Richey Walmart on State Road 54 stock up on canned goods in preparation for Tropical Storm Fay. It’s best to have supplies well before a storm arrives.

Times (2008)

Shoppers at the New Port Richey Walmart on State Road 54 stock up on canned goods in preparation for Tropical Storm Fay. It’s best to have supplies well before a storm arrives.

Alberto and Beryl have already come calling. They were just lowly tropical storms that apparently didn't know that the hurricane season doesn't start until June 1. • Yikes, that's Friday. • Is your hurricane food kit stocked and ready for Chris, Debby, Ernesto, Florence or any of the other innocently named blowhards that might come after? If not, it's time to get started.

Stocking supplies for a very rainy and windy day can be expensive. The cost won't change but the sting might be less if you pick up a few things each time you shop. Traditionally, the height of the Atlantic hurricane season is mid August to mid September so it's a good bet that you have some time. Don't dally, though. These storms are sneaky.

Store food in something portable, so you can take it when you evacuate. If you are able to stay home, you may be dealing with long-term power outages rather than structural damage. This is frustrating when everything seems fine but you have no electricity. But it's even more frustrating to be standing in a long line in the blazing sun waiting for water in the hours after the storm has passed. Don't talk yourself out of a hurricane kit just because you have an evacuation plan. An impending storm may not be severe enough to require evacuation.

Some other things to consider as you collect provisions:

• As a storm approaches, do an inventory of your pantry. You may already have foods appropriate for an emergency such as bread, crackers and peanut butter.

• Keep in mind whom you will be feeding when making a list of storm-ready food. Do you have young children, or perhaps a newborn? Are there dietary concerns that are about more than losing weight? For instance, diabetics and people allergic to wheat will need special considerations since so many shelf-stable foods are carb- and grain-laden.

• When the storm season is over and you've hopefully escaped unscathed, cycle the food into your regular meals or donate it to a food shelter. And finally, don't buy what you don't eat regularly. Spam doesn't taste any better when the wind is blowing 75 mph.

Checklist for stocking up

Use this checklist to determine what you've got in the pantry. Then take it to the supermarket to finish stocking your hurricane grocery kit.

Canned soups, chili, vegetables, stews: They can be eaten cold but can also be heated in a pot on the grill.

Cereal: Vitamin-fortified cereal can be eaten dry or with boxed or powdered milk.

Beverages: Juice, power drinks and enhanced water offer an alternative to plain water. Shelf-stable milk can be used for cereals or to drink. Buy in small boxes because once opened, they must be consumed.

Crackers: For snacking or eating with cheese and cold cuts from the fridge just after the power goes out.

Condiments: Mayonnaise is generally a no-no because of refrigeration issues, but buy the smallest jar you can and make tuna or chicken salad. Look for condiments — ketchup, hot sauce, mustard, relish, salt and pepper — in individual packets.

Water: One gallon a day per person for drinking, more if you'll be using it to reconstitute powdered milk. Have enough for seven days.

Fresh fruit: When a storm is a few days away, buy apples and oranges. They last a while, and it is good to eat something fresh.

Healthier snacks: Granola bars, Fruit Roll-Ups, dried fruit, nuts and trail mix offer nutrition and have a long shelf life.

Comfort food: For some of us, that means junk food. You know your family's weaknesses. Keep in mind, though, that salty snacks such as chips and pretzels will make you thirsty. Go easy on them.

Alcohol: A glass of wine may calm your nerves, but a bottle does something else altogether. Cloudy judgment might be one of your worst enemies in a storm. Because of this, stores have been known to halt alcohol sales as a storm approaches.

Other foods to consider: Peanut butter, individual applesauce and fruit cups, rice cakes, dehydrated food (from camping stores) and Meals Ready to Eat (from military surplus stores).

Preserved meats: Beef jerky is high-protein, low-carb and good for diabetics. Canned tuna, chicken, even Spam also provide protein.

Supplies: Garbage bags and ties, paper towels, wipes, fuel (charcoal, lighter fluid, matches) or a full propane tank for the grill, hand sanitizer. Don't forget the manual can opener. Plastic wrap or storage containers.

Tableware: Paper plates, napkins and paper or plastic cups; plastic forks, knives and spoons; a couple of serving spoons, forks and knives for food preparation and serving.

Food for pets: Food and drink for your pets, and their familiar dishes. Vitamins and medications.

Information from Times wires was included in this report. Janet K. Keeler can be reached at jkeeler@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8586.

On the Web

For more information about hurricane preparedness, go to tampabay.com/hurricane-guide.

On the Web

For more about hurricane preparedness, go to tampabay.com/hurricane-guide.

In 2004, a string of storms whipped through the Tampa Bay area, fraying nerves and lighting up my phone.
Many people had been without electricity and had lots of questions about the state of their food.
Here are some common safety questions about how to handle food and water before and after a storm.

How long must water be boiled to kill
bacteria?

The water should be at a rolling boil for
1 to 3 minutes.

What if I don't have a heat source to boil water?

One gallon of water can be purified with eight drops, or ⅛ teaspoon, of new, unscented household bleach. (A good thing to have in your hurricane kit.) Pharmacies and sporting goods stores sell water purification tablets.

Can I still eat the food in my pantry or refrigerator after floodwater has receded?

Do not eat any food in non-waterproof containers that have touched floodwater because it carries bacteria. This includes boxes of cereal or pasta. For canned foods, discard paper labels and note the contents with a marker directly on the can. Disinfect cans with a solution of one-fourth cup household bleach and 1 gallon water.

Is my kitchen equipment okay to use after the floodwater has receded?

Wooden cutting boards, plastic utensils, baby bottles and nipples should be discarded. Metal and ceramic utensils and cookware should be washed with soap and hot water, then sanitized in a dishwasher or in a bleach and water solution.

How can I make food last in my refrigerator and freezer after a power outage?

Keep doors closed to trap cold air. Bacteria begin to grow when temperatures rise above 40 degrees. Place appliance thermometers in the refrigerator and freezer to monitor the temperature.

How long will
perishable food be safe to eat after a power outage?

A full freezer should keep food safe for about two days; a half-full freezer, about a day. Refrigerated foods should be safe if the power is out no more than four to six hours. If it appears the power will be off more than six hours, transfer refrigerated, perishable foods to a cooler filled with ice or frozen gel packs.

Which foods spoil quickly?

Meat, poultry, fish, eggs and egg substitutes (raw or cooked), milk, cream, yogurt and soft cheese; casseroles, stews or soups, lunch meats and hot dogs; creamy salad dressings; custard, chiffon or cheese pies; refrigerated cookie dough; and open mayonnaise, tartar sauce and horseradish will be spoiled after eight hours without refrigeration.

I normally keep
butter in the refrigerator. Will it spoil without power?

The following foods keep at room temperature for a few days: butter or margarine; hard and processed cheese; fresh fruits and vegetables; fruit juices and dried fruit; opened jars of vinegar-based salad dressings; jelly, relish, taco sauce, barbecue sauce, mustard, ketchup, olives; fresh herbs and spices; fruit pies, breads and cakes, except cream cheese-frosted or cream-filled. Discard anything that turns moldy or has an unusual odor.

My power is back on. Can I refreeze thawed food?

You can refreeze thawed foods that still contain ice crystals. Thawed foods that do not contain ice crystals but have been kept at 40 degrees or below for no more than one to two days may be cooked, then refrozen or canned.

Should I empty my refrigerator before I evacuate?

You'll face a refrigerator full of rotten food if you evacuate, the power goes out and you can't return home for days or weeks. If you're gone only a day or two and the power stays on, your food should be fine. Here's a middle ground: Throw out the leftovers, stuff that probably won't get eaten. From your freezer, throw out items such as meat and poultry, which will go bad quickly if the power goes out.

Compiled by Times food and travel editor Janet K. Keeler with information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and Clemson University Cooperative Extension.

Gather provisions you'll need in storm before Weather Channel says a hurricane is coming 05/29/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 2:59am]
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