Waffle House’s Storm Center Is Open for Hurricane Florence. Here’s Why That’s Vitally Important

September 12, 2018, 9:35 PM UTC

Hurricane Florence continues on its path toward the United States East Coast and is expected to sweep the Carolinas through Saturday. And that means one thing: Waffle House has its Storm Center up and running, monitoring and tracking the path of Hurricane Florence.

You may be wondering why in the world is Waffle House in the disaster management business? The Norcross, Georgia-based chain keeps almost every one of its 2,100 locations open 24/7, no matter what the weather forecast says. That includes staying open during natural disasters such as Hurricane Florence.

How fully a Waffle House is able to operate is an important indicator of how well a community may be faring. In fact, it’s such a major indicator that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) established a “Waffle House index” following the devastating 2011 tornado that hit Joplin, Missouri.

The Waffle House index maps locations that are fully or partially functioning as normal, and those that are closed. The pleasantly simple index is also color-coded:

  • A green index means a Waffle House is open and offering a full menu.
  • A yellow index means a Waffle House is open, but offering a limited menu.
  • A red index means a Waffle House has been forced to close.

“If a Waffle House can serve a full menu, they’ve likely got power (or are running on a generator). A limited menu means an area may not have running water or electricity, but there’s gas for the stove to make bacon, eggs, and coffee: exactly what hungry, weary people need,” FEMA communications specialist Jessica Stapf wrote in a 2017 blog post. The logic goes that the sooner a Waffle House can get back on the grid, any number of local institutions including banks, grocery stores, and post offices can start functioning again.

And already, one South Carolina Waffle House has turned red on the current Waffle House Index. The Myrtle Beach Waffle House has completely closed until the hurricane passes.