ATLANTA - As Ian continues its destructive path toward the Georgia coast, the Georgia based restaurant chain Waffle House may be one of the best ways to see how severe the storm will be.
Waffle House restaurants have a reputation for staying open during almost any kind of weather and for reopening quickly after severe weather. This eventually lead to forecasters and emergency officials creating the information "Waffle House Index" to measure the damage and severity of a storm.
The term was created more than 15 years ago by former Florida Emergency Management Director Craig Fugate during Hurricane Charley. If the Waffle House was closed before the hurricane hit, it was a sign that people in the area should evacuate.
"Waffle House became almost like a rough guidepost," Fugate told FOX Business. "If it was open and had a full menu we probably weren't in the worst-hit areas yet."
The chain has different designations based on what is able to served and if they have access to water, electricity, and gas. Green means the stores are operational with a full menu. Yellow, they'll have a limited menu. Red means the store is shut down.
People wait in the rain to enter a Waffle House a day after Hurricane Florence on September 15, 2018. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
"We actually have a storm playbook that every restaurant has. We revise it each year as needed. And it tells the management team what to do in the event of an emergency," said Njeri Boss, Vice President of Public Relations for Waffle House.
While the Waffle House Index doesn't actually belong to Waffle House, the chain appreciates the name being used.
"People know about it. People know about it out of the country. I get calls about it all the time to talk about the Waffle House Index and how it works. And I have to remind people it's not ours. But hey, we appreciate the name being used. I know that there are lots of other businesses as well that emergency management will look to. But Waffle House is the first," said Boss.
FEMA does pay attention to their closures, as it helps them indicate how many people have evacuated from a town. That knowledge helps FEMA decide what they need to do after the storm.
According to USA Today, 21 Waffle Houses shut down in Florida ahead of Ian making landfall. As of Thursday, there are no reports of Georgia Waffle Houses closing.
Fox Weather contributed to this story.