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"Waffle House Index" shows Harvey's strength

The Waffle House Index

Craig Fugate, the former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, invented the "Waffle House Index" as a way to assess a storm's impact at a glance

The tongue-in-cheek coinage derives from the breakfast chain of the same name that is famous for being open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Under Fugate's index, a Waffle House restaurant switching to a limited menu is a bad sign; if the restaurant closes, it means conditions are dire. The index is also intended to give a general sense of how fast a community will recover from a natural disaster.

On Thursday, the chain tweeted that six locations in Houston were closed due to tropical storm Harvey, illustrating the storm's devastating impact on the city and its surrounding areas

But 34 Waffle houses in the area remained open, serving up eggs, coffee and waffles, and giving locals a place to recharge.

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In an op-ed following 2012 Hurricane Irene, Waffle House CEO Walt Ehmer wrote that the company is able to keep restaurants open or to reopen their doors quickly in a disaster because it prepares managers to handle disruptions. 

"After each emergency, we look at our planning to decide what worked well and what needs to be tweaked. But the biggest part of our planning is to show up and decide what is needed," he wrote.