How to Clean Up After a Hurricane

Most places in the United States have to endure some type of threat of natural disasters. Some have tornados, others have wildfires. Living in the south, we have hurricanes. As a child, we never evacuated- of course we never had any bad hurricanes that were projected to come here with such fury as the recent ones have. However, as an adult, I have evacuated more times than I care to count. Maybe it is the maternal part of me wanting to protect my child. Maybe it is my desire to not be in a boarded-up house without electricity with a 12 year old who can’t live without game boy or television.

Having lived through Katrina and now Gustav- I have come up with some tips- all tried and true techniques to make the cleanup of your fridge and freezer at home easier.

Hurricanes that call for a mandatory evacuation usually come through with very gusty wind to the point of knocking out electricity. Before I leave for my eva-cation (we try to make the best of it- and look at it as an unplanned vacation), I take all of my frozen food and put it in a garbage bag. I then place the garbage bag back into the freezer. This way- if the power goes out and is out for an extended period of time- once you get home, all you have to do it pull the garbage bag out of the freezer and take it directly outside into the garbage can.

Another thing I do it fill up large plastic cups or containers with water and place them in the freezer. For the last few hurricanes, the containers had time to freeze before electricity went out. If you only lose electricity for a few hours the frozen ice from these containers will take a while to defrost and may help to keep your food frozen longer.

If you are ever in doubt as to the amount of time your home has been without electricity, you should throw out all contents in your freezer/fridge. I do not even like to keep ketchup and jelly- things that some people do not even refrigerate. But I do not think it is good for anything, including condiments to be refrigerated, then not, then refrigerated again. This might just be a little too cautious, but the way I look at it, I would rather purchase new items instead of possibly getting sick off of eating something that I am not sure is safe.

Upon leaving the house on our eva-cation, I fill up at least one tub with water. Most of the time, if we lose electricity, water is usually interrupted shortly thereafter. When we return, even if we only return for a few hours to clean up, the water in the tub is used in the clean up process and for flushing toilets. I have used the tub water to wipe down the fridge and freezer to get the bulk of the mess up (if there is any) prior to using some type of cleaner- like Formula 409.

If you evacuate and have milk in your fridge GET RID OF IT BEFORE YOU LEAVE. If the electricity is out for long, the milk container will fill with pressure and swell. The cap of the milk jug will pop and the contents will spew out of the top. It is very unpleasant to return home to melted ice cream and liquefied butter, but it is so much worse, to return to milk that has exploded in your fridge. The smell and clean-up is hideous.

Make sure you take pictures of your house, all rooms inside your house, as well as outside your house when you are on your way out of your house. If you have damage and need to file a claim with your homeowners insurance, it is easier to show your adjuster pictures of before and after than to describe to them what it looked like before the damage. I even take pictures of my opened fridge/freezer to document food that I might have to tossed as soon as I return. You don’t want to take the time to take pictures of the spoiled food once you return. The quicker you can get the spoiled food outside the less the smell sticks around. Do not open your fridge until you are ready to spend the time to remove all contents and take them outside to the trash. Once you “break the seal” and open the fridge/freezer, you need to move quick to get it out of your house.

These are just a few tips that I have learned from evacuation and it makes cleanup a little bit easier upon my return. Hope these tips can help you also.

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