The Waffle House Index is an informal metric used by FEMA administrator Craig Fugate to evaluate how bad a storm is. Basically, whether the Waffle House in town is open or serving a limited menu can tell you something about how bad the storm was and how much recovery assistance is necessary.
If you get there and the Waffle House is closed? That's really bad. That's where you go to work.
See also The Economist's Big Mac Index and other odd economic indicators. (via @naveen)
From the Indiana Daily Student, the last days in the life of a Waffle House in Bloomington, Indiana.
Most of the students had stopped visiting years ago. The smoking ban forced out the puffers. Many of the regulars grew so old that they died or went to nursing homes.
Once Bud decided to close, it all slipped away even faster. Some of his staff had taken other jobs. The gumballs emptied out of the shiny red machine. No one bothered to mark the white board with the daily special.
They would close at precisely 3 p.m. Bud checked his watch, ignoring the broken wall clock, its hands frozen for more years than he could remember, stuck in time.
It suited the place.
Care of Google Maps, here's the Waffle House before it got torn down. (via unlikely words)
How do you know a natural disaster is really bad? The Waffle House is closed.
When a hurricane makes landfall, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency relies on a couple of metrics to assess its destructive power.
First, there is the well-known Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale. Then there is what he calls the "Waffle House Index."
Green means the restaurant is serving a full menu, a signal that damage in an area is limited and the lights are on. Yellow means a limited menu, indicating power from a generator, at best, and low food supplies. Red means the restaurant is closed, a sign of severe damage in the area or unsafe conditions.
"If you get there and the Waffle House is closed?" FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate has said. "That's really bad. That's where you go to work."