CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- There are any number of ways to measure the severity of a storm. Power outages. Snowfall. Wind speeds. Waffle House closures.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency uses what it calls the "Waffle House Index" as an informal way to see how badly a place has been hit by a disaster, as The Guardian pointed out in a story about the Moore, Okla. tornado last year:
Craig Fugate, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, came up with the idea of the "Waffle House index" as an informal way of measuring the impact of a disaster. The chain, which has a large number of branches in tornado-prone areas, has a robust emergency management plan.
The index has three levels. If the local Waffle House is up and running, serving a full menu, a disaster is classed as green. If it is running with an emergency generator and serving only a limited menu, it is a yellow. If it is closed, badly damaged or totally destroyed, as during hurricane Katrina, it is a red.
Basically, if your local Waffle House is closed, it must be really bad out there.
A Waffle House spokeswoman told us Thursday that this winter storm did not close any of its restaurants, although some were without power, but were still serving customers and awaiting generators.
A quick search of the NBC Charlotte archives shows the Waffle House Index at work during other storms:
January 2000: "From Monroe to Weddington, Waxhaw and Indian Trail, the snow started after 8:00 Monday morning, and it didn't stop falling until a couple of hours ago. Power outages are a major concern. People ate in darkness at this Waffle House off U.S. 74 in Indian Trail last night."
March 2004: "High winds knocked out power in Belmont. Workers at this Waffle House continued to serve food. They said no matter what, they stay open 24 hours a day, and that's just what they did. They served customers by candlelight."
This storm may have dumped a lot of snow, but as NBC Charlotte reporter Rad Berky found out Wednesday night in Rock Hill, it could have been a lot worse: