Waffle House closes Florida locations as Hurricane Matthew threatens coastline

As Hurricane Matthew closes in on Florida, theme parks and other businesses announced early closures in the wake of the powerful storm.

But if there’s one thing Florida residents were counting on to help weather the storm, it was Waffle House—the 24-hour chain announced earlier this week it would do everything in its power to keep as many of its locations open through Matthew.

On Thursday, however, Waffle House sent out one fateful tweet that sent the social media sphere into a tailspin: the restaurant would be closing all of its locations along I-95 between Titusville and Fort Pierce on Thursday night as a result of Category 3 storm.

Many online proclaimed their devastation and took Waffle House's announcement as a sure sign of apocalypse.

Closing down a restaurant during a serious hurricane might seem like the sensible business move but Waffle House is renown for its emergency management system that allows it to keep locations running during serious natural disasters. 

For years, FEMA has even been using  an unofficial color-coded system dubbed “The Waffle House Index” to measure just how bad a disaster has gotten. When a restaurant is completely shuttered, the index moves to its highest emergency level—red—an indication the area is likely in need of serious assistance.

Waffle House’s Vice President of Culture Pat Warner tells that while the chain does everything in its power to stay open, their “number one priority is the safety of our staff on the ground and our customers.” The company has a fleet of emergency response vehicles loaded with generators, construction materials and communication technology ready to assist with repairs once Matthew subsides.

Thursday’s announcement affects seven Waffle House locations along Florida’s east coast but dozens more remain open inland and throughout other states.