Waffle House closes 21 Florida locations as Hurricane Ian moves in

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has historically used an unofficial "Waffle House Index" to help assess damage in disaster areas.

A Waffle House restaurant in Bessemer, Ala., on Feb. 7, 2021.Elijah Nouvelage / Bloomberg via Getty Images file
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In a sign of the severity of Hurricane Ian, Waffle House told NBC News on Wednesday it had closed 21 Florida locations that are in the path of the Category 4 storm.

Waffle House has gained a reputation over the years for staying open in all but the most extreme circumstances, offering food and beverages to emergency crews and individuals riding out natural disasters.

Waffle House spokesperson Njeri Boss said in an email that most of the affected locations were in the projected path of the hurricane, with a few others in low-lying flood zones.

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In previous years, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has used an unofficial “Waffle House Index” in part to help assess damage in disaster areas.

"If a Waffle House can serve a full menu, they’ve likely got power (or are running on a generator)," FEMA wrote on its blog in 2017. "A limited menu means an area may not have running water or electricity, but there’s gas for the stove to make bacon, eggs, and coffee: exactly what hungry, weary people need."

A FEMA representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ian was set to make landfall Wednesday afternoon near Cape Coral, Florida, bringing 155 mph winds and up to 16 feet of storm surge to some coastal areas.