Over the course of the Hurricane Florence news coverage, the term “Waffle House Index” has been used quite a few times. The chain restaurant is so prevalent across the country, and their locations are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so FEMA uses it as a barometer to see how bad a storm is affecting an area.
Former FEMA administrator Craig Fugate said, “If a Waffle House is closed because there’s a disaster, it’s bad. We call it red. If they’re open but have a limited menu, that’s yellow … If they’re green, we’re good, keep going. You haven’t found the bad stuff yet.”
If a Waffle House location is having trouble getting supplies, then FEMA knows transportation has been slowed down because of a storm. If only some of the menu items are available, there might have some utilities and not others. If a Waffle House restaurant shuts down and locks its doors, FEMA knows that the weather is really, really bad because many of them will stay open even in the worst weather to help first responders.
What a brilliant concept. So remember, if you live near a Waffle House and you’re having a storm, see what’s going on there to get a good idea of how bad the weather might get.