NEW YORK (MainStreet) – While Hurricane Irene caused its share of flooding and wind damage on its way up the East Coast, it wound up being less catastrophic than initially feared. In New York City, for instance, power outages and flooding were limited, despite mandatory evacuations and a run on emergency supplies in the days prior to the storm’s landfall.
While no one should be kicking themselves for over-preparing – it’s better to be safe than sorry – the fact is that there are now a lot of people with kitchens full of canned food and more batteries and bottled water than they know what to do with. So what to do with all this stuff?
First, if you have enough room in your house or apartment to hold onto those supplies, do so. Irene isn’t going to be the last hurricane that blows into town, as hurricane season doesn’t end for another three months, so chances are good that you’re going need those supplies at some point. Every major storm is preceded by a run on supermarkets and drugstores; next time everyone is freaking out about an impending storm, wouldn’t it be nice to already have everything you need to survive?
As such, we suggest using this as an opportunity to make sure you’re fully prepared for that next storm. Take stock of what you already have stockpiled, then check out our hurricane kit guide to see what supplies you need to purchase to fill in the blanks. When everyone is raiding the hardware store to try and find the last flashlight, you can be secure in the knowledge that you have everything you need in your closet.
You should, of course, make sure to check the expiration dates on your non-perishables; a box of expired tuna won’t do you much good in the next hurricane, though that bottled water will pretty much keep indefinitely. And if you’re putting your flashlights into storage, take out the batteries and store them separately to reduce the chance of corrosion. The same goes for the emergency radio you’ve hopefully included in your kit.
With that said, you might not have room for an emergency kit. If that’s the case, consider taking all that canned food and donating it to a local food bank, which can always use it. Check FeedingAmerica.org for a directory of food banks in your area. And if you’re feeling really charitable you could even take a more direct approach and hand out tuna sandwiches to local homeless people.
As for the non-food items, if you really can’t find room, you could always return them to the store, especially if you went crazy and bought half a dozen flashlights and a few dozen candles for your apartment. As long as the packages are unopened and you still have your receipt, there’s no reason the store won’t take it back.
Finally, if you actually wound up without power for an extended period of time, take a good hard look at the food in the fridge and figure out what needs to be thrown out. The Department of Agriculture has a good guide for what does and doesn’t need to be thrown away, and there are some surprises on there – for instance, if your fresh mozzarella got warm, it needs to be tossed, but the parmesan cheese is probably OK. Obviously, you could err on the side of caution and just throw out everything, but there’s no need to waste food unnecessarily.