How the Waffle House is used to determine a hurricane’s fury

Gladys Abbott
September 16, 2018

Waffle House has always been a popular spot for round-the-clock comfort food for locals and travelers alike throughout the South.

That's because the 24-hour restaurant chain is known for more than a fast breakfast - it often remains open during natural disasters, providing food and resources to first responders. In fact, the Waffle House is so hard to close down that FEMA uses a scale based on Waffle House closures to tell just how bad a hurricane and its aftermath actually are.

Recently, Waffle House has been in the news, but it isn't for its waffles.

On Tuesday, Waffle House tweeted a photo of personnel hunkered down in a situation room, in front of screens with maps and the hurricane's projected path. "Plan ahead and be safe", the company encouraged its customers. The restaurant chain, famous for staying open even through major disasters, seems to have kept the vast majority of its restaurants in operation as the storm approaches.

You may be wondering why in the world is Waffle House in the disaster management business?

As of noon Wednesday, Waffle House executives had made the decision to close eight of those restaurants that appear to be in the direct path of the hurricane.

Because of this, FEMA internally uses an unofficial "Waffle House Index" to track potentially risky events. If locations in the affected area are forced to close, the index is red - and because Waffle Houses are very prepared, this is the rarest scenario.

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As Hurricane Florence approaches, restaurants in North and SC are watching the weather to determine whether or not they will stay open.

"If a Waffle House can serve a full menu, they've likely got power (or are running on a generator)".

Hurricane Florence has been designated a Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 130 miles per hour.

If the restaurant is open but only serving a limited menu, the index is yellow.

At least one Waffle House location - in Myrtle Beach, S.C. - has closed until the hurricane passes. "If they're green, we're good, keep going".

And already, one South Carolina Waffle House has turned red on the current Waffle House Index. "You haven't found the bad stuff yet". The sooner restaurants, grocery stores, and banks re-open - the sooner the local economy and recovery restart.

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