There are times when the free market can offer a better interpretation to weather and its impact than all the meteorologists combined. I am a regular customer to Waffle House and have talked to the staff there about their company views about being open when storms ravage the area. It is almost a religious commitment to stay open if it is at all possible. So, when Waffle House closes or indicates they may not be at full capacity … beware … it is one hell of a storm.
The term “Waffle House Index” was apparently coined by FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate in May 2011, following the 2011 Joplin tornado, during which the two Waffle House restaurants in Joplin remained open. The measure is based on the reputation of the restaurant chain for staying open during extreme weather and for reopening quickly, albeit sometimes with a limited menu, after very severe weather events.
My conversations have always indicated that Waffle House has become a societal barometer of the wellness and survivability of a community. If Waffle House is closed (condition red as they call it) you really do need to worry about the situation. It is funny how the innovative initiatives to be open when others are not is such a symbol to a community.
So, here’s to Waffle House … smothered and covered with appreciation from its loyal base.