Pop quiz time:
Hurricane Dorian isn’t a real storm unless:
a) Jim Cantore is camped out in your neighborhood
b) Your local Waffle House is closed.
If you answered both of the above, you would be correct.
Welp, The Weather Channel meteorologist Cantore is indeed in Florida, a bad sign.
The bright spot: Pat Warner, Waffle House spokesman, told the Miami Herald all the locations in the Sunshine State are still open.
The 24/7 breakfast joint is ground zero when disaster strikes, thanks to the Waffle House Index.
It’s an unofficial metric used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to determine the effect of a storm and the amount of assistance needed for disaster recovery.
How this index came to be: In 2004, after Hurricane Charley, former FEMA administrator Craig Fugate was asked how the effects of a natural disaster are gauged.
He made a semi serious joke that stuck: He said if you pass a Waffle House that’s closed, you’re in trouble.
“He told folks if the Waffle House was still open to keep driving until you find one that’s closed,” Warner said. “We’ve built a reputation for opening up quickly after a disaster. Fugate recognized that and kind of shone a spotlight on that.”
It’s not really an official, organized index anywhere, Warner added, but used internally to see how quickly a community is coming back.
How big a deal is it if a location shutters?
“We never close, and if we do, it’s an ordeal,” Warner said. “Our folks have to turn off things and locks the doors. We have a checklist.”
Fugate is apparently asked about the index frequently when hurricanes roll around.
On Friday, he Tweeted an explanation about the 15 year old FEMA coding system:
To paraphrase: Green means the location is open with a full menu. Yellow, the place is still open but there is a limited menu (and possibly working with a generator. Red means closed (and yikes).
We will be monitoring the announcements from the National Hurricane Center, following updates from Jim Cantore. But mainly, we need to keep tabs on South Florida’s six Waffle Houses.