As I am writing this blog post, a hurricane is bearing down on the state of Florida. The last advisory has it as a potential category 4 making landfall on the east coast. It's important that we stay informed, make some preparations, and remain calm. As you flip back and forth between news channels (local news outlets are telling us to stay calm in Tampa Bay while the Weather Channel is preaching End of Times), another source you can look to is your local Waffle House.
Yep, you read that correctly. There is such a thing as the Waffle House Index. I heard about this recently and did a little research, and it turns out that this is one informal metric FEMA uses to determine the severity of storms and other disasters.
Waffle Houses are open 24/7. During or after a national disaster, the restaurants are kept open when possible to feed first responders and to serve the impacted community. If your Waffle House stays open, that's a good sign. It means there hasn't been too much damage and that members of the community have not been significantly impacted. Your Waffle House may be open during or after an event with a limited menu or special hours, but if your Waffle House closes, you know there's a problem.
FEMA certainly used other factors to determine storm severity, but because the company is so reluctant to shut down operations, a closed Waffle House is not a good sign. In fact, if it takes the Waffle House awhile to get going after a storm, that is viewed as an indicator as to how the rest of the community will recover.
So as Dorian continues to head for Florida, gather your supplies. If you are told to evacuate, evacuate. PLEASE make sure you do not leave pets to fend for themselves. And if your neighborhood Waffle House closes, you better get the heck outta Dodge.