When the season has the tropics churning, storm veterans and newcomers will be thinking about evacuation routes, securing households -- and figuring out what's for dinner.

No matter what may come this season, being well-prepared is a great stress reliever. Food for comfort and sustenance is a key component before and after a storm hits.

Preparing the kitchen

- Create a waterproof kit of cooking tools as well as fuel (Sterno pots), matches, charcoal, paper plates, plastic utensils and sealable plastic bags.

- Group food together in the freezer. This helps food stay cold longer

- Turn temperature dials of your refrigerator and freezer to the coldest positions.

- Store food on shelves that will be safely out of the way of contaminated water in case of flooding.

If the power goes out

- Use up perishable foods and leftovers first.

- Put trays underneath food in refrigerator in case items thaw and start to leak.

- Don't open freezer or refrigerator door unless you have to. Post a list on outside of both doors that itemizes the contents. This will cut down on openings and keep food cold longer. Food stored in a closed refrigerator is safe for at least 24 hours.

- If you leave the freezer door shut, it will keep the food cold for 48 hours. After that, pack dry ice in freezer compartment. Caution: This ice requires sturdy gloves for handling. Albertsons and ice suppliers are good sources.

Post-storm cooking

- Provide sufficient clearance around grills, making sure overhangs and other items won't ignite.

- Never use a grill inside a house, tent or canopy. Fumes create carbon monoxide, which becomes highly toxic in an enclosed area.

- Never leave a heated grill unattended.

- If you're cooking with a charcoal grill, use only approved accelerant fluids for charcoal fires, following the manufacturer's instructions and recommendations.

- If using a propane-fueled gas grill, open the lid before you start the flow of gas. Failure to do so can result in a gas buildup and explosion.

When weather clears

- Food starts to spoil when temperature rises above 40 F. You have two hours to return food to cold conditions or cook it. If either is not an option, throw it out.

- After extended power outages, add refrigerators and freezers to the storm-cleanup list. If left untreated, mold, mildew and bacteria can permeate appliances.

A related story ran on pae E3.