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Duke issues guidance on distancing, food protection

Duke Energy is asking people to help power crews observe social distancing while they work to restore power to nearly 20,000 Henderson County customers. The utility dealing with also passing along guidelines from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration on protecting refrigerated and frozen food during the power outage.

Here's Duke Energy's advisory:

We are focused on helping protect our employees, contractors and the communities we serve through proper social distancing practices and other protective measures.

· Please avoid approaching Duke Energy crews in the field or entering their work zone as they restore power. If you do need to speak with someone, be advised that employees will maintain at least six feet of separation.

· Please adhere to stay-at-home orders and help our crews avoid distraction by supporting social distancing guidelines as they work.

· If it is necessary to leave home, customers should move over or slow down if they see utility crews or other first responders working along roads. It’s not only the law, but also helps protect our crews who are working to help restore power to customers.

· Additionally, employees do not travel, climb or work when sustained winds reach 39 miles per hour. When the storm passes and wind speeds drop below 39 miles per hour making it safe for travel, crews will begin damage assessment and repairs.

Protecting refrigerated food during a power outage

We know that many customers may have stored up their refrigerators and freezers as part of their stay-at-home plans. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends the following tips:

· Have appliance thermometers in your refrigerator and freezer. The freezer temperature should be at or below 0° F, and the refrigerator should be at or below 40° F.

· Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature.

· The refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours if it is unopened.

· A full freezer will keep the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed.
· Have coolers on hand to keep refrigerated food cold if the power will be out for more than 4 hours.

Click here for additional tips for proper food handling and storage before, during and after a power outage.

Renay Knapp, family consumer science extension agent for Henderson County, said food is at risk once the refrigerator temperature rises above 40.

"If the temperature has been at 40 then they're going to have to discard most of those things in their refrigerator," she said. "And that's sad to say right after Easter when they may be having some leftovers there. Keeping the doors closed to the refrigerator and freezer as much as possible keeps the cold in there and it doesn't let it come out.

If food stored in the freezer have ice crystals "then it's going to be safe to refreeze it," she said. "The food is going to have lesser quality but it will still be safe to eat."

Dry ice will help keep a refrigerator and freezer cold. Otherwise, people may be cooking a lot of thawed meat, which they can refreeze or can. Knapp regularly teaches canning and preserving. For questions, send an email to