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This hurricane damage report brought to you by... Waffle House?

Up until this morning, my knowledge of the national significance of Waffle House was limited to quick, cheap breakfast food easily accessible off the interstate.

Little did I know that this iconic establishment plays a much larger role... in assessing hurricane damage:

WELDON, N.C.—When a hurricane makes landfall, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency relies on a couple of metrics to assess its destructive power.

First, there is the well-known Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale. Then there is what he calls the "Waffle House Index."

Green means the restaurant is serving a full menu, a signal that damage in an area is limited and the lights are on. Yellow means a limited menu, indicating power from a generator, at best, and low food supplies. Red means the restaurant is closed, a sign of severe damage in the area or unsafe conditions.

"If you get there and the Waffle House is closed?" FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate has said. "That's really bad. That's where you go to work."

Who knew

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