One of the informal tools used by FEMA and other responders in natural disaster analytics involves checking to see if Waffle House is still open.
Waffle House restaurants notoriously stay open during natural disasters. So if the diner closes during an event, that suggests it was a really bad natural disaster with devastating effects on the economy. And on the flip side, if it stays open and serving a full menu, damage was relatively limited.
"If you get [to a place where a disaster hit] and the Waffle House is closed? That's really bad," said FEMA administrator Craig Fugate back in 2011.
As of this morning, 25 locations in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina were closed. That's unheard of. They had been planning to stay open throughout the hurricane; they're a 24-hour operation, so as the chain's vice-president noted, "oddly enough shutting down is a big deal for us."
Update - 25 restaurants closed in FL, GA & SC