As Hurricane Ida made landfall on the Louisiana coastline Sunday, Waffle Houses projected to be in the Category 4 storm’s path have closed.
Why does it matter? Well, it’s usually a solid predictor of how destructive severe weather can be.
For those not familiar with popular southern restaurant, Waffle House has been known for staying open 24/7, regardless of extreme weather.
The restaurant’s reputation for remaining open resulted in then-FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate coining the Waffle House Index in 2011. When a tornado hit Joplin, Missouri that year, two Waffle Houses stayed open despite the tornado that caused $2.8 billion worth of damage and killed 158 people in the area.
So how does the Waffle House Index work?
The Waffle House Index has three tiers: green, yellow and red. Green means the store will operate fully, yellow means the restaurants will be open, but the menu or power is limited. Red means the store will be closed.
The index has been used to predict how bad extreme weather conditions will affect an area.
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That’s the case for some Louisiana restaurants as Ida made landfall in Louisiana at Port Fourchon with driving winds of up to 150 mph. As of Sunday afternoon, five Waffle House locations have closed in southern Louisiana, according to the company’s website.
The locations closed are in Morgan City, Houma, Raceland, Boutte and Thibodaux, which are all expected to be in hurricane’s path. A store in Gray, located in between Houma and Thibodaux, remains open. From its farthest points – Morgan City to the west and Boutte to the east – the closures cover nearly 50 miles of land.
Northwest of those locations, all Waffle Houses in the Lafayette area closed early on Sunday so employees could go home, according to the Lafayette Daily Advertiser. The unit manager said restaurants in Jennings and Crowley and west of that would remain open.
Twitter users, including Fugate, shared images of the Waffle Houses closed, noting that the closures mean the storm will have catastrophic effects. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tweeted on Sunday Ida would cause, “considerable to life-threatening flash and urban flooding and significant river flooding impacts.”
Last year, 18 Waffle House location closed when Hurricane Laura hit Texas and Louisiana, which resulted in 14 deaths. Waffle House also has jump teams, which are a group of people who assist locations in keeping them open or opening back up quickly following closures.
If anyone needed a sign to take Hurricane Ida seriously, the sign is the one that says “closed” outside a Waffle House.
Contributing: Sophie Blaylock, Corpus Christi Caller Times
Follow Jordan Mendoza on Twitter: @jord_mendoza.