At first glance, hash browns and hurricanes don’t have a lot in common. But if they’re served at Waffle House, those hash browns are a key signal of how badly a hurricane has affected a community. The Federal Emergency Management Agency operates a “Waffle House Index” and the chain even runs a Storm Center to monitor hurricane damage at its restaurants, reports.
Waffle House is so crucial when a storm hits because the 24-hour chain often stays open when the weather gets bad. If a hurricane hits and a Waffle House stays open, it can feed first responders and provide meals to people who have lost power. So if a Waffle House closes, that’s how you know the storm is really bad, or is predicted to be that way.
For years, has relied on major companies like Waffle House to see how hurricane recovery is doing. And Waffle House makes sense, because they’re largely located in the hurricane-vulnerable South. For their Waffle House index, it’s green if the store is offering a full menu, yellow if they’re serving a limited menu, and red if it’s closed. And it’s rare for the index to turn red. The index shows how businesses are recovering, and how the larger community is doing as well.
The company has its own Storm Center, which they have put in place to monitor Hurricane Florence, which is predicted to cause serious damage in the Carolinas. They also tweeted a cheeky message to the storm itself: “Kiss my grits!”