Waffle House, the cheerful chain known just as much for its waffles as it is for being open 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year, announced it had closed several locations in the Houston area due to Hurricane Harvey. The category 4 storm blasted onto Texas’ shoreline late on Friday, creating catastrophic damage. As of this morning, tens of thousands of residents have been displaced, hundreds of businesses — including restaurants — are closed, and four Waffle House restaurants shuttered:
· #1416 - 27935 SW Freeway, Rosenberg, TX
· #1572 - 728 N Sam Houston, Houston, TX
· #1513 – 7106 Will Clayton Parkway, Humble, TX
· #653 - 3987 College Street, Beaumont, TX
Update: By 11:21 a.m. PST, the Rosenberg location re-opened, per a Waffle House tweet.
In recent years, Waffle House has emerged as a bellwether of a storm’s severity; a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) official said in 2011 that a Waffle House’s closure — and its ability to reopen quickly — was an indicator of “really bad” local damage. The resulting “Waffle House Index” designates three levels: green if a restaurant is operating as normal, yellow if it’s open but offering a limited menu, and red if it’s closed.
That index (one of many unofficial measurements FEMA might use) is a reasonable measure thanks to Waffle House’s own on-the-ground efforts: The beloved chain has its own internal system to ensure restaurants are open after natural disasters as soon as possible.
Waffle House director of external affairs Pat Warner told Yahoo! Finance earlier this week that the chain works with suppliers, local officials, and construction teams to ensure locations in affected areas are structurally safe. Once they get the okay, the chain’s regional “jump teams” parachute into cities to open up those stores (“It does help to bring operators from outside so it relieves [local employees] so they can focus on family,” Warner told Yahoo! “They don’t have to worry about their restaurant at the same time”).
As of this writing, the storm has affected more than 6.6 million residents; according to the National Weather Service, more rain is expected to fall before the storm moves on.