If you happened to watch any news coverage of Hurricane Florence in the Carolinas, there’s no doubt you heard at least a few times about the “Waffle House Index.” Since the chain restaurant is so prevalent across the country, and their locations are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, FEMA actually 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.”
Let’s break that down a bit for those unfamiliar with the Waffle House protocol. 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, they might have some utilities but 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.
It’s not an exact science obviously, but, hey, if this method of storm monitoring works for FEMA, you know there’s got to be some merit to it. So if you live near a Waffle House and your dealing with a storm, see what’s going on over there to get a better idea of how bad the weather might get.