The Waffle House Index

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Dear Tom,
I recently learned about the Waffle House Index, and it’s so fascinating! How did this come to be?
— Rachel Wanland, Marengo
Dear Rachel,
The Federal Emergency Management Agency does use information from several national chains to help determine just how hard an area has been impacted by a weather event. Waffle House, a restaurant chain that is open 24/7, is one of them.
The chain prides itself in remaining open following natural disasters, which requires a lot of advance planning by the company’s management; so if a Waffle House is closed, conditions in that area must be really bad.
During Houston’s encounter with Harvey, some Waffle Houses had to shut down, but the vast majority stayed open. The term Waffle House Index was first coined by FEMA Director W. Craig Fugate in 2011.