Will Hurricane Idalia shut down your Waffle House? Why that matters in a storm

When you’re trying to gauge how dangerous a storm is, plenty of places have answers: the National Weather Service, the National Hurricane Center, the Weather Channel, the news site you are reading right this moment.

But your local Waffle House?

The chain is known for its 24/7 restaurants where you can fill up on waffles, eggs, greasy-cheesy hash browns and coffee. But it’s also known for its hurricane gauge.

When your Waffle House closes its doors, you know it’s about to get really bad outside.

The place with the yellow sign sign out front never closes — except in a severe hurricane.

If you had any doubts about how strong Idalia is, this should clear things up:

Four to seven Waffle House locations in the path of Idalia will be closed Tuesday night for a day, according to Njeri Boss, Waffle House vice president of food safety and public relations.

The restaurants that could briefly shut their doors are in Live Oak, Madison and St. Petersburg.

“The 24-hour Waffle House, at least for that time, will be no more,” said Boss about the potential shutdowns.

There’s even a Waffle House index to determine how bad a storm is and whether restaurants in a hurricane zone close.

Here are the three color-coded scales in the Waffle House Index, which are used to measure the damage after a storm, not risk before it hits:

  • Green means the restaurant is serving a full menu, a sign that damage in the area is limited and there’s still power.

  • Yellow means there’s a limited menu, which means the restaurant is getting power from a generator and has low food supplies.

  • Red means the restaurant is closed, which is a sure sign that the area is severely damaged or unsafe.

In 2017, a Waffle House in Bradenton shut its doors before Hurricane Irma hit, worrying locals. And in Davie, a Waffle House had to close for repairs after Irma blew out a window.

The “Waffle House Index” term comes from the former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Craig Fugate.

Said Fugate in 2011: “If you get there and the Waffle House is closed? That’s really bad.”