Nearly two dozen Waffle House restaurants are closed across Florida, worrying those who view the always-open chain as an informal gauge of how bad a natural disaster can be.
WITHwith respect to the state, the 24-hour restaurant chain currently has 21 restaurants closed from Bradenton to Naples, a spokesperson told CBS MoneyWatch in an email Wednesday. “These restaurants are located in the direct path of the storm, several of them in low-lying areas prone to flooding,” she said.
“We are continuing to monitor weather conditions, working closely with local government officials, emergency management teams and our local field leadership to make appropriate decisions based on the circumstances in each location,” the spokeswoman added.
Waffle House has more than 1,900 locations in 25 states.
Federal emergency officials are warning that Hurricane Ian could bring a life-threatening storm surge, heavy rain and winds.on Wednesday as a major Category 4 storm — the second strongest possible category, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Known for its practice of quickly reopening after a disaster, or staying open to feed first responders in the midst of such events, Waffle House is also considered a means of assessing damage to an area.
“We’re pretty proud that it’s something that’s being used,” a Waffle House spokesperson said he told the local CBS affiliate the mark is considered an indicator of storm severity. “Rather, because it’s an outward manifestation of our commitment to the communities we serve.”
As Craig Fugate, a former administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, explained in the past, “If you get there and the Waffle House is closed? That’s really bad. That’s where you go to work.”
The so-called Waffle House Index ranges from green to yellow to red depending on whether the restaurants are open, closed or offering a limited menu.
“If a Waffle House can serve a full menu, they probably have electricity (or a generator running). A limited menu means there may not be running water or electricity in the area, but there’s gas for the stove to make bacon, eggs, and coffee: just what hungry and tired people need” according to per FEMA’s 2017 blog post.