New Waffle House Index just dropped.

Mess in Texas

Nothing spells dystopia quite like using a fast food app to track damage from natural disasters — but in Texas, they make do.

As a viral post on X-formerly-Twitter indicates, the San Antonio-based fast food chain Whataburger's store locator offers a better look at what areas are still experiencing power outages in the wake of the uber-destructive Hurricane Beryl than the state's own electrical companies.

As the reasoning goes, if the "W" logo for one of the more than 120 Houston locations is lit up with the company's iconic orange, that likely means that area has power. If the logo is grey, indicating that the store is closed, it probably means there's no electricity.

Indeed, as the Houston Chronicle noted, the fast food chain that's open 24 hours at all locations can act as a stand-in for the local CenterPoint Energy's outage tracker, which was down after the storm — though some people noted that when they tried to go to locations that were supposed to be open, they discovered that they were, in fact, closed.


Index This

This isn't the first time Americans have used the power status of fast food joints to track fallout from disasters. With more than 2,000 24-hour locations in half the states in the US, the fast-casual diner chain Waffle House is famously used in states where it's prevalent as a loose meteorological rating system to determine how much damage a storm has done.

"Green means the restaurant is serving a full menu, a signal that damage in an area is limited and the lights are on," the company notes in a delightful article on its website about the so-called Waffle House Index. "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."

In that same piece, an official with the Federal Emergency Management Agency described how seriously first responders take a "red" on the index.

"If you get there and the Waffle House is closed?" mused FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, "that’s really bad. That’s where you go to work."

As novel as these sorts of fast food-inspired hacks are, others online pointed out just how messed up it is that Americans have to resort to such measures.

"Why are we out here creating new versions of the waffle house index," queried one user, "instead of fixing our energy grid[?]"

More on natural disasters: Temperature Gets So Hot That Motorcyclist Dies Mid-Ride

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