Food

Why it matters when Waffle House closes during a hurricane

Amidst all the government warnings, politicians urging evacuation and dire predictions by meteorologists, there is one development that officially drives home the point that a serious hurricane is on the way.

The local Waffle House is closed.

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See Hurricane Matthew firsthand from plane flying inside the storm

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See Hurricane Matthew firsthand from plane flying inside the storm

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The chain of 24-hour diners in the South is known to stay open through almost anything. When the company announced on Friday that a stretch of 25 locations in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina would be closed as Hurricane Matthew approached, that was a sign to many about the storm's severity.

Craig Fugate, the Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator who appeared on TODAY Friday to warn of the impending storm surge, helped develop the "Waffle House Index" when he was the head of Florida's Department of Emergency Management from 2001-09.

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FEMA administrator warns: Beware Hurricane Matthew storm surge

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FEMA administrator warns: Beware Hurricane Matthew storm surge

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The index has three colors signifying the severity of the storm as it relates to Waffle House, according to a 2011 Wall Street Journal article regarding Hurricane Irene.

Green means the power is on and the full menu is being served. Yellow means a smaller menu is in effect, most likely due to dwindling food supplies or the power being on a generator. Red is the most severe, meaning Waffle House is closed.

An earlier proclamation on Thursday about the initial Waffle House closings in Florida ahead of the storm had people bracing for the end of days.

The Atlanta-based chain, which has more than 1,500 locations, particularly prides itself on how quickly its locations are able to re-open once a destructive storm rolls through. During Hurricane Irene in 2011, power was knocked out at 22 locations, with all but one re-opening shortly after the storm, according to The Wall Street Journal.

With Waffle House existing only in the South, the Northeast has its own food-related warnings for impending storms, the French Toast Alert System. The system, which also has tracks the blizzards that have blanketed the Northeast in recent years, "has been developed in consultation with local and federal emergency officials to help you determine when to panic and rush to the store to buy milk, eggs and bread."

Follow TODAY.com writer Scott Stump on Twitter.

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