If your power is out, how long can food keep in the fridge or freezer? And other FAQs
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Austin Energy began rotating blackouts across the city early Monday to ease the strain on the power grid amid a record-setting freeze in Central Texas.
"Due to record electric demand, Texas electric grid operator is directing rotating outages to protect electric grid reliability," the utility said in a written statement, referring to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages most of the state's power output.
Austin Energy tweeted at 3:30 a.m. that outages were lasting longer than the expected 40 minutes "due to the severity of weather and the condition of the [ERCOT] grid" and asked residents to continue to conserve energy. The extended outages have continued past 5:30 a.m.
How long will the food in my fridge last?
The Food and Drug Administration says that even with the refrigerator door shut, you should "discard refrigerated perishable food such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs and leftovers after four hours without power.”
A full freezer will keep food safe for almost 48 hours if the door remains closed. If the freezer is half full, reduce that time to 24 hours.
If any of your meat, poultry and dairy is above 40 degrees for more than four hours, throw that out, too.
Can I use my gas stove?
Yes, your gas range top should still work if the power is out — but the burner's electric igniter won't.
Turn the burner knob to the lowest setting, and use a match to light the flame.
However, if your stove has an "interlock" function, which prevents gas leaks, unfortunately, you're out of luck and can't use your range.
While you'll be able to heat up some water for coffee on your gas stove, you won't be able to use your oven. It's not possible to start gas ovens without electricity.
Here are some things not to do if your power is out
- Because of the electricity running through them, power lines are a major cause of injury in storms. Never go near them. Not even close. Water on the ground can transfer that electricity, even yards away.
- Do not use cooking grills or fuel-powered generators indoors as they emit carbon monoxide, which can be deadly.
- Do not open and close refrigerator or freezer doors frequently. This can spoil food and liquids such as milk more quickly. Frozen food can stay fresher longer — up to two days longer — with doors closed.
- Be careful with candles — do not leave them unattended.
Here are some actions you can take if your power is out
- Stay tuned on a battery-operated radio for news about service restoration.
- Use flashlights, headlamps, battery-operated lanterns or glow sticks rather than candles or other flammable lighting sources.
- Keep only a single electrical item plugged in to alert when the power is restored. (This also prevents power surge damage to other appliances and devices.)
- Mind those with special needs who may be trapped on upper floors when elevators stop working.
- Know in advance where your residence's fusebox is located and how to turn the power and circuit breakers on and off. Mapping and labeling each circuit breaker to its relative appliance or room is also a good idea.
- Evacuate immediately if you smell gas.