One of the indicators as to how serious a hurricane’s effects are is how local businesses respond. FEMA administrators have found that Waffle House provides a pretty good indicator of how serious a storm is. There’s several reasons for this, not only does Waffle House stay open 24/7, they have thousands of stores and many of them in the Southeast United States, which is where hurricanes frequently make landfall. FEMA refers to an informal metric as a shorthand to gauge how serious a hurricane is. If Waffle House is fully operational, the area is green; yellow if there is a limited menu, and Waffle House is closed, code red means it’s time to panic. Beyond the immediate indicator of danger when the restaurant that never closes… closes, it’s an index of how the supply chain is coming along in the recovery of a storm. More restaurants closed means more area needs recovery. Waffle House may be open on a limited menu, which indicates that not all systems are up and running: and there’s a way to go to get back to green. Waffle house even has their own storm center to track severe weather.
The fivethirtyeight story from a few years ago has the best breakdown. And here’s a video clip for people who like that: