In Bradenton, Florida, an ominous sign is starting to pop up in advance of Hurricane Irma: a Waffle House restaurant shuttered before the winds had begun to pick up.
Former FEMA administrator Craig Fugate has used the ubiquitous breakfast restaurant chain as an indicator for how quickly communities are likely to spring back after a hurricane. Waffle House restaurants are generally open round the clock, and under Fugate’s Waffle House index, a closed breakfast spot is a bad sign.
While it may seem like a joke, FEMA actually does use the Waffle House Index to measure a storm’s impact. According to the Miami Herald, green indicates that a Waffle House is serving a full menu and electricity is on. Yellow means there is a limited menu, low food supplies and possibly the necessity of using generators. Red means Waffle House has closed.
This is not the first time the Waffle House Index has come into play in Florida: Hurricane Matthew prompted several closings on the west coast of the state in 2016.
On Twitter, Waffle House said that stores are closing based on evacuation orders. In Bradenton, several neighborhoods have been given mandatory evacuation orders, while others are voluntary.
According to the Associated Press, there are not many Waffle House locations in Miami, so Fugate has suggested using Cuban coffee stands as a similar metric.