How to prepare food and appliances for power outages

Tropical weather can seriously damage power lines and knock out power for days or weeks.

The first rain and wind from Laura is expected sometime Wednesday night. In the event you lose power, here is a list of tricks and items you may not have thought about that will help your family.

PERISHABLE FOOD

First comes the concern of food left in your fridge. One tip is to freeze large containers of water to keep food cold during an outage.

Keep the fridge and freezer door closed. A fully loaded freezer will keep food cold for 36 to 48 hours. A half-full freezer will keep food cold for about 24 hours.

For extended outages, 50 pounds of dry ice should keep an 18-cubic-foot freezer that is fully stocked cold for two days.

Before eating refrigerated or frozen meat, poultry, fish or eggs, thoroughly cook them to a safe minimum internal temperature to destroy any foodborne bacteria that may be present.

A food thermometer is a good last-minute purchase to test the internal temperature of perishable food before you eat to make sure it's safe.

If the food was kept above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours or more, discard it.

Two more last-minute items you can grab are an inexpensive styrofoam cooler and ice. Use the cooler to keep your dairy products, meat, fish and eggs fresh.

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APPLIANCES

If the power goes out, turn off all your most expensive appliances, including your furnace, air conditioning, water heater and water pump.

Leave just one lamp on so that you know when the power turns back on. This will ensure you avoid a circuit overload and another outage when all appliances turn on at once.

Before the storm, practice opening and closing your garage manually. This is also a good tip if you live in an apartment building. It is important to know the plan to be able to get out if you have elevators or electronic key card access.

It's also a good idea to have some activities planned. Board games won't make anything safer but they will help keep everyone calmer.

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GENERATORS

Power outages are common when severe weather strikes, and they could leave you in sweltering heat. A power generator could come in handy during a blackout and could even keep hundreds of dollars of food from spoiling.

A gas-powered portable generator is the most basic backup generator and can get you through a short-term blackout, according to AccuWeather. Place it in your yard and plug it into your home using extension cords.

Portable generators often cost between $500 and $1,500, depending on the model.

A standby generator is much more powerful and convenient. It immediately turns on when the power goes out, but your wallet will take a hit. They cost between $5,000 and $15,000.

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