- The “quarter in frozen cup of water” trick could prevent you from getting sick in the aftermath of a hurricane.
- You just fill a cup with water, freeze it, and stick a quarter on top.
- When you come back from a hurricane evacuation, if the quarter is still at the top of the cup, your food is likely safe to eat.
- If the quarter sank, it means your freezer lost power and you should probably throw your food out.
When thinking about hurricane safety, we usually focus on staying safe during the actual storm. But sometimes coming back in the aftermath of a natural disaster — like Hurricane Florence, which is surging towards the US East Coast right now — can have its own dangers.
It’s very likely that power outages during a major storm will spoil any food leftover in your fridge. But when you come back after being evacuated, how do you know if your food is safe to eat?
Introducing the simple but genius “quarter in a frozen cup of water” trick.
This trick has been going around for a while, but it resurfaces every time a natural disaster is looming. All you have to do is fill a cup with water and place it in the freezer until frozen solid. Then you put a quarter on top of the cup, and put it back in the freezer.
When you come back:
- If your quarter is still on top of the cup: This means your electricity (and therefore your refrigerator) did not go out for a significant time frame during the storm, and your food is probably safe to eat.
That said, per Snopes, “Because ice is less dense than water, the ice on which the coin is resting on will float on the water it creates as it is melting. It is therefore possible that the cup of ice could melt partially — even substantially — before refreezing and still show the coin as being in the same position. To be sure, it could also fall off or move in a clearly detectable way, but it is not guaranteed.”
- If the quarter has sunk to the bottom: That means the power was out for a significant time and you should probably empty your fridge before you get severely ill from eating spoiled groceries.
- If the quarter is somewhere in the middle: You may be safe, but the freshness of your fridge contents is iffy.
The FDA says that when preparing for emergencies, the temperature of your freezer should be below zero degrees Fahrenheit, and your fridge temperature should not be above 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
The FDA also suggests freezing containers of ice water to help your food stay cooler longer, even if the power goes out, and also to place refrigerated items in the freezer that you won’t use immediately so they stay fresh.
Refrigerated food is safe as long as the door is kept shut and the power is out for no longer than four hours.