Yes, government agencies actually look to Waffle House for indication of storm severity and signs of recovery.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and nationwide weather agencies keep an eye on the 24-hour Southern restaurant chain Waffle House and use their Index as a key to quickly assess how a community might rebound after a storm.
When you think of Waffle House, 24-hour breakfast comes to mind. But during devastating storms on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, the restaurant chain is not just the only restaurant open, but their storm center team helps FEMA make important decisions regarding how severe the storm will be in an area.
How Does Waffle House Know This?
They’re part of their community. And, they have an exemplary risk management plan. Waffle House has become the test of how a community is faring during difficult times. If a Waffle House either goes to a limited menu (yellow on the index) or actually closes (red), it means that the storm is so bad that even the Waffle House is closed. However, as soon possible, the Waffle House reopens, and this is a good indicator that other businesses will soon follow, leading to the eventual recovery of the community.
Waffle House has their own in-house storm center watching Hurricane Florence and all of the other impending storms this hurricane season. Their motto is “Plan ahead and be safe.”
Origin of the Waffle House Index
The index was created by former FEMA administrator, Craig Fugate. In 2011, Fugate reportedly said, “Waffle House test doesn’t just tell us how quickly a business might rebound – it also tells us how the larger community is faring. The sooner restaurants, grocery and corner stores, or banks can re-open, the sooner local economies will start generating revenue again – signaling a stronger recovery for that community.” Read the original FEMA blog post here.
During past horrific storms, Waffle Houses have remained open -- like the one in Joplin, Missouri, during the 2011 tornado. But, according to EHS Today, during Hurricane Harvey last year, several Houston Waffle Houses closed as the hurricane devastated the area.
Courtesy of @WaffleHouseNews
So, how is Florence doing, according to the Waffle House Index?
Early on September 14, the Waffle House nearest to Wrightsville Beach, NC, was still open for business. But one Waffle House in Myrtle Beach closed a couple of days before the storm. It’s now being reported that several Waffle Houses in the Wilmington area have closed due to loss of power, and several others are open with limited service. It looks like the storm of the century is keeping its promise.
While most other businesses have closed to weather the storm, Waffle House stays open as long as it can to give patrons who fled from their homes a place to have a meal, as well as offer a place for those first responders in the area to manage rescue and recovery if needed. And, you can be sure that the ones that needed to close today will open as soon as it’s possible.
How Florence Will Affect Virginia
As Florence gets downgraded to a tropical storm, most of Virginia will fortunately not feel the highest impact, however, we are likely to get a lot of rain starting early Saturday morning, which may cause flooding and power outages. If you are near the coast, in Norfolk, Hampton, or Virginia Beach, tidal flooding will be a problem.
If you find yourself in torrential downpours and there’s no other restaurant open, visit your local Waffle House. They’ll keep you dry and safe. And, please take their advice – plan ahead and be safe.
Do you have a Waffle House near you? Do you have any Waffle House storm stories to share? Tell us in the comments below.