How bad could Hurricane Ian be? If you buy into the Waffle House Index, bad. Really bad.

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If you're not aware, Wikipedia says The Waffle House Index is an informal metric named after the restaurant chain that the Federal Emergency Management Agency uses to determine the impact a storm has on a community and the likely scale of assistance a community will need in the aftermath of a disaster.

According to Wikipedia former FEMA Director Craig Fugate is credited with coining the term in May 2011, after the Joplin tornado, during which the two Joplin area Waffle House Restaurants remained open.

The Wikipedia page on The Waffle House Index says here's how it works:

The index has three levels, based on the extent of operations and service at the restaurant following a storm:

  • GREEN: full menu – The restaurant has power and limited or no damage.
  • YELLOW: limited menu – No power or only power from a generator, or food supplies may be low.
  • RED: the restaurant is closed – the restaurant has been completely destroyed or has severe flooding.

Over the years the Waffle House Index has become pretty well known, so it's no surprise that it was only a matter of time before people started trying to see what Waffle House was doing in front of storms, or after storms to see how bad the storm was, or might be. So there's no shortage of stories on the subject regarding Hurricane Ian.

Wednesday morning September 28, USA Today noted Waffle House closed a bunch of Florida stores because of dangerous weather. They even quoted Waffle House Vice President of Public Relations Njeri Boss, "We do have closures in mandatory evacuation zones and locations within low-lying areas that are subject to severe flooding."

The Wall Street Journal published a similar story on Wednesday, September 28, again noting the restaurant closures including a quote from Boss talking about how the safety of employees and their families is important to the restaurant chain when talking about the closures. The Journal also included a quote from former FEMA director Fugate, “If you get there and the Waffle House is closed? That's really bad. That's where you go to work.”

Closer to the hurricane, The Miami Herald's story took a look at the Waffle House Index and detailed a couple of other Flordia Hurricanes that shut Waffle Houses down as Hurricane Irma did in Davie, and even the time a Waffle House closed in Bradenton before the storm hit.

Marketwatch, local television stations, and even a website called FreightWaves all published stories on the subject.

Yeah, Waffle House closing 21 stores ahead of Hurricane Ian isn't a good sign. As of Wednesday afternoon, Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida near Cayo Costa with 150 mph winds. WESH 2 television in Orlando reports that the storm is expected to cause a life-threatening storm surge, catastrophic winds, and flooding in the Florida peninsula, with the National Weather Service warning conditions will deteriorate Wednesday night.

Yep, the Waffle House Index is right on the money.

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