Downed power lines, carbon monoxide poisoning lethal dangers during storm

Downed power lines, carbon monoxide poisoning lethal dangers during storm
Downed power lines are one of the many possible hazards facing Alabamians in the path of Hurricane Michael. (Source: Photo Pixabay)

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Alabamians facing power outages as a result of Hurricane Michael should remember that food in refrigerators will be unsafe to eat four to six hours after the power goes out.

That's if the refrigerator door is kept shut. Any thawed foods that have been kept at room temperature for more than two hours should be thrown out, the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) said.

For a full freezer, food will be kept safe for two days after the power shuts off. A partially-full freezer will preserve food for about a day, the health department said.

Food safety is just one of the issues those in the path of Michael may face if the power goes out.

Sickness or deaths due to carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning can be avoided by never using generators, grills, camp stoves or other gasoline, propane, natural gas, or charcoal-burning devices inside a home or other enclosed area, even near an open window, the state health agency said.

CO is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness or death if breathed. The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion.

Always set up a generator at least 20 feet from the home, doors, windows, and vents. And use a battery-operated or battery back up carbon monoxide (CO) detector.

The health department said that stray animals also can pose a danger during storms, especially if they are carrying rabies. Contact with displaced animals should be avoided.

Downed power lines also can lead to serious injury. Report any downed lines to utility companies, and do not touch them. And do not drive through water that is in contact with loose power lines.

If the power line falls across the vehicle while you are driving, continue to drive away. But if the vehicle stalls, stay in the vehicle with the ignition on until emergency personnel arrive.

After the storm, the cleanup begins, often starting with the hum of chainsaws.

For more information about using chainsaws safely and other tips, visit the ADPH Web site at

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