As odd as it sounds, the so-called "Waffle House Index" is a tool used by FEMA to measure just how badly a natural disaster such as a hurricane or tornado has affected the community where the restaurant is located.
Former FEMA administrator Craig Fugate explained the line of thinking behind the index in a 2016 NPR interview:
"They are open most of the time. And that was the index. If a Waffle House is closed because there's a disaster, it's bad. We call it red. If they're open but have a limited menu, that's yellow," he said. "If they're green, we're good, keep going. You haven't found the bad stuff yet."
Waffle House's Wednesday morning tweet announcing the closures started with a concerning hashtag, then: #WaffleHouseIndexRed.
In other words, if you absolutely must get your Cheesesteak Melt Hashbrown Bowl fix, you have options. But considering the Waffle House Index is currently flashing red, you might also consider taking caution — and taking this COVID-19 stuff very seriously.
#WaffleHouseIndexRed: 418 Waffle House restaurants closed. 1,574 open.— Waffle House (@WaffleHouse) March 25, 2020
Call your local Waffle House today for a carry-out order.
Visit https://t.co/TJdYpTHQPn for specific restaurant details. pic.twitter.com/tOQib3gSoZ