- Over 800K Homes & Businesses Without Power At Peak – Down to 470K By Afternoon
- Pax Paralyzes Air/Rail/Road Travel | Over 7,100 Flights Canceled
- Over 20 Inches of Snow And A Foot Of Ice In Some Areas
- At Least 25 Deaths Blamed On Winter Storm Pax
- More Snow On The Way
While 21 states deal with the impact of Winter Storm Pax, another system right behind it will be bringing more snow to eastern states and the Ohio Valley right through the weekend.
For many people in the affected areas, Valentine’s Day will either be a stay-at-home affair or postponed until the storm blows over.
We’ve compiled information on storm survival, including how to keep your food and medicine supplies safe if the power goes out. First, here’s a look at the impact of Winter Storm Pax condensed into 60 seconds by CNN:
Once people were able to make it home, many found they had become one of the more than 400 thousand customers without power across the affected regions. Air commuters didn’t fare any better – over 3,000 flights were cancelled across the country, with many more cancellations expected on Thursday.
With at least 13 deaths being blamed on the storm, forecasters maintained their dire warnings that some areas could experience catastrophic conditions for some time as Pax tears into the mid-Atlantic and Northeast states. The following ominous tweet from the National Weather Service warned against underestimating how bad things will get.
Here’s a look at how the initial ice storm looked in the south in 60 seconds courtesy of CNN:
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is issuing food safety recommendations for the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic states affected by severe winter weather moving across the country.
Weather forecasts predict power outages that could compromise the safety of stored food. FSIS recommends that consumers take the following steps to reduce food waste and the risk of foodborne illness during severe weather events.
The publication “A Consumer’s Guide to Food Safety: Severe Storms and Hurricanes” can be downloaded and printed for reference during a power outage.
FSIS will provide relevant food safety information as the storm progresses from its Twitter feed @USDAFoodSafety. To get tweets about weather-related food safety issues affecting just your state, follow @GA_FSISAlert, @NC_FSISAlert and @SC_FSISAlert.
Steps to follow if the power goes out:
- Keep appliance thermometers in both the refrigerator and the freezer to ensure temperatures remain food safe during a power outage. Safe temperatures are 40°F or lower in the refrigerator, 0°F or lower in the freezer.
- Freeze water in one-quart plastic storage bags or small containers prior to a storm. These containers are small enough to fit in around the food in the refrigerator and freezer to help keep food cold. Remember, water expands when it freezes so don’t overfill the containers.
- Freeze refrigerated items, such as leftovers, milk and fresh meat and poultry that you may not need immediately—this helps keep them at a safe temperature longer.
- Know where you can get dry ice or block ice.
- Have coolers on hand to keep refrigerator food cold if the power will be out for more than four hours.
- Group foods together in the freezer—this ‘igloo’ effect helps the food stay cold longer.
- Avoid putting food outside in ice or snow, unless it’s in a closed cooler, because it attracts wild animals or could thaw when the sun comes out.
- Keep a few days’ worth of ready-to-eat foods that do not require cooking or cooling.
- Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. A refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours if the door is kept closed. A full freezer will hold its temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if half-full).
- Place meat and poultry to one side of the freezer or on a tray to prevent cross contamination of thawing juices.
- Use dry or block ice to keep the refrigerator as cold as possible during an extended power outage. Fifty pounds of dry ice should keep a fully-stocked 18-cubic-feet freezer cold for two days.
Steps to follow after a weather emergency:
- Check the temperature inside of your refrigerator and freezer. Discard any perishable food (such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs or leftovers) that has been above 40°F for two hours or more.
- Check each item separately. Throw out any food that has an unusual odor, color or texture or feels warm to the touch.
- Check frozen food for ice crystals. The food in your freezer that partially or completely thawed may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is 40°F or below.
- Never taste a food to decide if it’s safe.
- When in doubt, throw it out.
Videos detailing food safety information are available in English, Spanish and American Sign Language on FSIS’ YouTube channel,www.youtube.com/USDAFoodSafety.
An FSIS Public Service Announcement (PSA) illustrating practical food safety recommendations for handling and consuming foods stored in refrigerators and freezers during and after a power outage is available in 30- and 60-second versions at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/videos-psas/food-safety-public-service-announcements.
News organizations and power companies can obtain hard copy (Beta and DVD) versions of the PSA by contacting FSIS’ Food Safety Education Staff at (301) 344-4757.
Consumers with food safety questions can “Ask Karen,” the FSIS virtual representative available 24 hours a day at www.AskKaren.gov or m.AskKaren.gov on a smartphone. Mobile Ask Karen can also be downloaded from the Apple and Android app stores. Consumers can e-mail, chat with a live representative or call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline directly from the app. To use these features from Mobile Ask Karen, simply choose “Contact Us” from the menu. The live chat option and the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline, 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854), are available in English and Spanish on weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET.
- Make someone aware if you have a health or special needs condition if you are evacuated or if you go to a shelter or community center.
- Insulin for diabetics and some other liquid medications require cooling. Check the safe temperature range on the packing and keep it in a closed refrigerator.
- If the power goes out, monitor the temperature in the fridge with a thermometer and place medications requiring cooling next to ice packs or cold water in plastic zip bags. Lunch bags with a cool pack can also be used.
- Check regularly to make sure the medication doesn’t freeze.
- Diabetics should keep a supply of snacks on-hand.
- Keep a one month supply of prescription medications on-hand during storm seasons.
During Winter Storms and Extreme Cold
- Stay indoors during the storm.
- Walk carefully on snowy, icy, walkways.
- Avoid overexertion when shoveling snow. Overexertion can bring on a heart attack—a major cause of death in the winter. If you must shovel snow, stretch before going outside.
- Keep dry. Change wet clothing frequently to prevent a loss of body heat. Wet clothing loses all of its insulating value and transmits heat rapidly.
- Watch for signs of frostbite. These include loss of feeling and white or pale appearance in extremities such as fingers, toes, ear lobes, and the tip of the nose. If symptoms are detected, get medical help immediately.
- Watch for signs of hypothermia. These include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness, and apparent exhaustion. If symptoms of hypothermia are detected, get the victim to a warm location, remove wet clothing, warm the center of the body first and give warm, non-alcoholic beverages if the victim is conscious. Get medical help as soon as possible.
- Drive only if it is absolutely necessary. If you must drive: travel in the day; don’t travel alone; keep others informed of your schedule; stay on main roads and avoid back road shortcuts.
- Let someone know your destination, your route, and when you expect to arrive. If your car gets stuck along the way, help can be sent along your predetermined route.
If The Power Goes Out
- Go to a designated public shelter if your home loses power or heat during periods of extreme cold. TextSHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area (example: shelter 12345).
- If the pipes freeze, remove any insulation or layers of newspapers and wrap pipes in rags. Completely open all faucets and pour hot water over the pipes, starting where they were most exposed to the cold (or where the cold was most likely to penetrate).
- Maintain ventilation when using kerosene heaters to avoid build-up of toxic fumes. Refuel kerosene heaters outside and keep them at least three feet from flammable objects.
- Conserve fuel, if necessary, by keeping your residence cooler than normal. Temporarily close off heat to some rooms.
- If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55ºF.
If Stranded In A Vehicle
- Pull off the highway. Turn on hazard lights and hang a distress flag from the radio antenna or window.
- Remain in your vehicle where rescuers are most likely to find you. Do not set out on foot unless you can see a building close by where you know you can take shelter. Be careful; distances are distorted by blowing snow. A building may seem close, but be too far to walk to in deep snow.
- Run the engine and heater about 10 minutes each hour to keep warm. When the engine is running, open a downwind window slightly for ventilation and periodically clear snow from the exhaust pipe. This will protect you from possible carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Exercise to maintain body heat, but avoid overexertion. In extreme cold, use road maps, seat covers, and floor mats for insulation. Huddle with passengers and use your coat for a blanket.
- Take turns sleeping. One person should be awake at all times to look for rescue crews.
- Eat regularly and drink ample fluids to avoid dehydration, but avoid caffeine and alcohol.
- Be careful not to waste battery power. Balance electrical energy needs – the use of lights, heat, and radio – with supply.
- Turn on the inside light at night so work crews or rescuers can see you.
- If stranded in a remote area, stomp large block letters in an open area spelling out HELP or SOS and line with rocks or tree limbs to attract the attention of rescue personnel who may be surveying the area by airplane.
- Leave the car and proceed on foot – if necessary – once the blizzard passes.