If you are one of those people who doesn’t worry until Waffle House closes, it’s time to start worrying.
The Georgia chain has closed 21 locations from Bradenton south to Naples as Hurricane Ian pushes into the state Wednesday morning.
Njeri Boss, the company’s vice president of public relations, says more closings could be on the way. The chain will make the call on what to do with other locations as the storm progresses.
“Safe operation remains paramount to decisions we make,” he says.
Although there’s long been a joke about people not worrying about a storm until the local Waffle House closes, the restaurant chain is an acknowledged authority on weather events with professionals tracking the unofficial Waffle House Index during storms.
The index, a term invented by former FEMA administrator Craig Fugate according to AccuWeather, is “an informal measure of a storm’s severity and its effect on a stricken community.”
It was created after a massive tornado hit Joplin, Missouri, in 2011, according to the weather forecast and warning company’s website. The tornado killed 158 people and caused $2.8 billion in damage. But the town’s two Waffle Houses remained opened.
“Waffle House, especially the locations in areas that get a lot of hurricanes, has a reputation for its effective handling of disasters,” AccuWeather says. “It has a limited menu prepared for times of food shortages and power outages. It also assembles ‘Waffle House jump teams’ who can quickly reopen the restaurant after a disaster as soon as it is safe to do so.”