Thursday, September 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Hurricane Guide

You’ll know Hurricane Florence is bad when the Waffle House Index hits code red

Everyone is preparing for Hurricane Florence, which continues to barrel toward the Carolinas. Residents are evacuating the area, FEMA is getting supplies, Weather Channel reporters are breaking out their strongest windbreakers - and the Waffle House Storm Center has been activated.

That’s right: One of the South’s most popular breakfast chains plays an important role in hurricane forecasting. Waffle Houses are known for staying open through anything. So when the company decides to close one of its locations because of bad weather, it means the storm is an unusually bad threat. It’s called the Waffle House Index, and FEMA monitors it. Seriously.

"The WaffleHouse Storm Center is activated and monitoring #Florence," @WaffleHouseNews tweeted on Tuesday.

Former FEMA administrator W. Craig Fugate came up with the Waffle House Index as a way to determine how an overall community was faring during a disaster.

HURRICANE GUIDE: Emergency information, tracking map and storm resources

"The Waffle House test doesn’t just tell us how quickly a business might rebound - it also tells us how the larger community is faring," Dan Stoneking wrote on the FEMA Blog in 2011. "The sooner restaurants, grocery and corner stores, or banks can reopen, the sooner local economies will start generating revenue again - signaling a stronger recovery for that community."

The Waffle House Index - which is, again, a real thing that our government uses - is color-coded. If Waffle Houses are open and offering a full menu, the index is green. If they’re offering a limited menu, it’s yellow. If locations in the affected area are forced to close, the index is red - and because Waffle Houses are very prepared, this is the rarest scenario. In Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, an employee of a still-operating Waffle House told a reporter that during 2016’s Hurricane Matthew, the location closed only after the ceiling tiles began to fall.

RELATED: Florence could hit with punch not seen in more than 60 years

On Tuesday, Waffle House tweeted a photo of personnel hunkered down in a situation room, in front of screens with maps and the hurricane’s projected path. "Plan ahead and be safe," the company encouraged its customers. Some residents in Southern cities base their decision to evacuate on whether the Waffle House is still open. (This is not recommended.)

Here’s hoping all the residents of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, have evacuated the city: Their Waffle House just hit Code Red. WMBF News in Myrtle Beach reported that a Waffle House there closed two days before the storm’s anticipated hit: "Y’all Waffle House in Myrtle Beach is closed ahead of the storm," tweeted the station’s Nia Watson. "It just got real!!!"

Meanwhile, Waffle House’s main Twitter account had a message for the approaching storm: "Hey Flo. . . Kiss my grits! #HurricaneFlorence"

MORE WEATHER

EXTENDED FORECAST: The 10-day outlook for the Tampa Bay area

DOWNLOAD: Get the tbo Weather App and see where storms are headed

LIVE RADAR: Interactive storm track, hourly outlooks, 10-day forecasts and weather alerts

ALERTS: The latest advisories from the National Weather Service

Comments
'You gotta take care of home': Michael Jordan donates $2 million to Florence recovery efforts

'You gotta take care of home': Michael Jordan donates $2 million to Florence recovery efforts

As Hurricane Florence slammed into the Carolinas late last week, bringing with it torrential rain and flooding, the news was grim: Towns were transformed into islands cut off by floodwaters, the number of storm-related deaths increased daily and hund...
Published: 09/19/18
Noah's Ark except it's a school bus: Truck driver rescues 64 dogs and cats from floods of Hurricane Florence

Noah's Ark except it's a school bus: Truck driver rescues 64 dogs and cats from floods of Hurricane Florence

There is nothing like a meal at the Waffle House after driving more than 60 animals from the South Carolina coast to southern Alabama inside of a school bus. Tony Alsup can attest.Alsup, a 51-year-old trucker from Greenback, Tennessee, was parked at ...
Published: 09/17/18
Fearsome new stage begins as Florence floods inland rivers

Fearsome new stage begins as Florence floods inland rivers

NEW BERN, N.C. — As the death toll from Florence mounted and hundreds of people were pulled from flooded homes, North Carolina is bracing for what could be the next stage of a still-unfolding disaster: catastrophic, widespread river flooding.After bl...
Published: 09/16/18
Now a tropical storm, Florence spreads watery mayhem across Carolinas

Now a tropical storm, Florence spreads watery mayhem across Carolinas

CONWAY, S.C. - With a plodding pace belying still-unspent fury, Tropical Storm Florence pushed deeper into the Carolinas on Saturday, inundating homes, toppling trees and pushing rivers far beyond their banks as rescuers rushed to keep pace.More than...
Published: 09/15/18
Hurricane Florence: First Deaths Reported in North Carolina

Hurricane Florence: First Deaths Reported in North Carolina

Tropical Storm Florence continued to thrash the Carolinas on Friday evening with fierce winds, driving rain and catastrophic flooding. Downgraded from hurricane strength after making landfall near Wilmington, North Carolina, the storm had killed at l...
Published: 09/14/18
Carlton: The destructive, unpredictable whim of a hurricane

Carlton: The destructive, unpredictable whim of a hurricane

Here’s what a lot of us think, truth be told, every time those computer models start stretching their colored tentacles toward the place we live:Please not here.Please not us.A fierce and powerful hurricane hurtled toward the East Coast this week, an...
Published: 09/14/18
Weakening winds from Hurricane Florence approach the Carolinas

Weakening winds from Hurricane Florence approach the Carolinas

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — The outer bands of wind and rain from Hurricane Florence began lashing North Carolina on Thursday as the monster storm moved in for an extended stay along the Southeastern coast, promising to drench the properties of 10 million p...
Published: 09/13/18
You’ll know Hurricane Florence is bad when the Waffle House Index hits code red

You’ll know Hurricane Florence is bad when the Waffle House Index hits code red

Everyone is preparing for Hurricane Florence, which continues to barrel toward the Carolinas. Residents are evacuating the area, FEMA is getting supplies, Weather Channel reporters are breaking out their strongest windbreakers - and the Waffle House ...
Published: 09/13/18
NASA images show how massive Florence is

NASA images show how massive Florence is

Hurricane Florence is so enormous, astronauts in space had to use a super-wide angle lens to capture a photo. German astronaut Alexander Gerst took to Twitter this morning warning coastal residents to "watch out.""Get prepared East Coast, this is a n...
Published: 09/12/18
Hurricane Florence decreases to a Category 3, could still bring ‘life-threatening’ storm surge to Carolinas

Hurricane Florence decreases to a Category 3, could still bring ‘life-threatening’ storm surge to Carolinas

WILMINGTON, N.C. — Florence has decreased to a Category 3 storm, but could still bring life-threatening storm surge and rainfall across the Carolinas. According to the National Hurricane Center, the storm’s peak winds have decreased.Communities along...
Published: 09/12/18