For anyone still harboring any doubt about the ferocity of Hurricane Florence, hear this: At least one Waffle House location in the storm’s path is now closed.
The 24-hour chain restaurants rarely close, so news that the Waffle House in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina has shut its doors until after the storm passes is a clear indicator that this one’s going to be a doozy. Local news station WMBF reports the restaurant on Myrtle Beach’s Frontage Road is now “eerily empty” ahead of Florence’s expected arrival.
Waffle Houses close so infrequently that the Federal Emergency Management Agency uses the restaurants as a barometer for disaster recovery, utilizing an informal “Waffle House Index” to measure the severity of tropical storms and hurricanes in a particular area. Essentially, if a Waffle House closes that’s a sign that a storm was — or in this case, is anticipated to be — severe.
The Waffle House Index
Green: Waffle House is serving a full menu and electricity is on.
Yellow: Waffle House is serving a limited menu, may be low on food supplies, and is likely using an electrical generator.
Red: Waffle House is closed. (This is probably a good indication that it’s time to evacuate.)
The National Weather Service has dubbed Florence “the storm of a lifetime”; news outlets are warning that the storm, which is expected to make landfall as a Category 4, will be “catastrophic,” and it’s projected to cause massive inland flooding across the Carolinas and Virginia.
As NPR reported in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Waffle House does its damnedest to stay open even when natural disasters strike, sending “jump teams” of restaurant managers from other regions to keep restaurants running, often serving a limited menu. And with numerous locations in Florence’s projected path, the restaurant chain is keeping a close eye on this storm:
Eater has reached out to Waffle House for information on any additional restaurant closures and will update with any further intel.