Tracking Hurricane Florence? Watch your local Waffle House

Always open.
Always open.
Image: AP Photo/Ric Feld
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With Hurricane Florence on the way, the US east coast is shuttering schools and businesses. But Waffle House is undeterred.

The restaurant chain takes pride in staying open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, whatever the weather. It prepares contingency plans and “jump teams” to keep that promise, even during the most devastating storms. Even if you lose power, you can usually wander over to your local Waffle House for a coffee and hash browns.

Former FEMA director W. Craig Fugate noticed Waffle House’s resilience, so several years ago he suggested the Waffle House Index to gauge the severity of a storm:

  • Green: Waffle House is open. Everything’s fine! Or, at least, it’s fine inside the Waffle House.
  • Yellow: Waffle House is open, but serving a limited menu. This might mean the area has lost power, or the restaurant is running low on supplies.
  • Red: Waffle House is closed. Things must be very, very bad.

Of course, the index is about more than food: it’s a gauge for how quickly a community can get back on its feet and reopen other crucial businesses like grocery stores and banks.

As of late yesterday, Eater reports that at least one Waffle House location in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina was closed. With evacuation warnings and preemptive public health emergency declarations in place, another indicator worth watching is how many other locations in the storm’s path go from green to yellow or even red.