Why FEMA watches the Waffle House menu during hurricanes

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"Waffle House Index" has become a key part of storm preparedness: When a Waffle House closes in the face of an impending storm, that's when you really need to be anxious. Serving up tasty waffles is not all the restaurant chain is known for, though. If you find a "closed sign" on a Waffle House, it's best to evacuate and don't forget your spouse. They also tweeted a cheeky message to the storm itself: "Kiss my grits!" It included a photo of a group of people in the "storm center" gathered around a conference table.

Hurricane Florence has been designated a Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 130 miles per hour.

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At least one Waffle House location - in Myrtle Beach, S.C. - has closed until the hurricane passes.

The popular Georgia-based diner chain renowned for its 365-day 24-hour service has an emergency routine that's so well-regarded, the Federal Emergency Management Agency unofficially uses the restaurants' status as an indicator for the severity of a natural disaster. Because of the company's close watch on natural disasters, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) dubbed the term the "Waffle House Index" as a means of determining the effect of a storm on an area. EHS Today explains that the Waffle House Index runs on a color-coded system. He told National Public Radio in 2016: "They are open most of the time". And that was the index.

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Everyone is preparing for Hurricane Florence, which continues to barrel toward the Carolinas. We name it red. The Savannah Hwy. Waffle House just over the bridge in West Ashley remains open - when we called this morning they didn't even offer a hello, but instead answered with "yes we are open with a limited menu so come on in!" We have 250 restaurants, and we are monitoring resources so they can roll in right after the storm. "You haven't found the bad stuff yet".

Waffle House spokesman Pat Warner said it's flattering that the company has such a high profile in the eyes of FEMA. "The sooner restaurants, grocery and corner stores, or banks can re-open, the sooner local economies will start generating revenue again - signaling a stronger recovery for that community", the FEMA blog says.

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