PANAMA CITY, Fla. – If the forecasts from meteorologists weren’t enough indication of the possible severity of Hurricane Michael in the Panhandle, this alternative tracking method might — the Waffle House in Panama City is closed.
Hurricane Michael is currently a powerful tropical cyclone that just made landfall on Florida as a high-end Category 4 hurricane. With a minimum central pressure of 919 mbar (27.1 inHg), Michael was the third-strongest hurricane to make landfall on the United States, behind the 1935 Labor Day hurricane and Hurricane Camille.
Early on October 2, the NHC began monitoring a broad area of low pressure that had developed over the southwestern Caribbean Sea.
While strong upper-level winds initially inhibited development, the disturbance gradually became better organized as it drifted generally northward and then eastward toward the Yucatán Peninsula. By October 6, the disturbance had developed well-organized deep convection, although it still lacked a well-defined circulation.
The storm was also posing an immediate land threat to the Yucatán Peninsula and Cuba. Thus, the NHC initiated advisories on Potential Tropical Cyclone Fourteen at 21:00 UTC that day.
By the morning of October 7, radar data from Belize found a closed center of circulation, while satellite estimates indicated a sufficiently organized convective pattern to classify the system as a tropical depression. The newly-formed tropical cyclone then quickly strengthened into Tropical Storm Michael at 16:55 UTC that day.
With more than 1,500 restaurant locations across the Southeast that are typically open 24 hours every day of the year, a closure is a big deal, so much so that emergency officials informally determine how bad a storm is based on the Waffle House Index
— Mark Arum (@MarkArum) October 9, 2018
“If a Waffle House store is open and offering a full menu, the index is green. If it is open but serving from a limited menu, it’s yellow. When the location has been forced to close, the index is red. Because Waffle House is well-prepared for disasters… it’s rare for the index to hit red,” according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The Panama City location is expected to reopen after Hurricane Michael passes.
— Waffle House News (@WaffleHouseNews) October 10, 2018
The Category 4 storm has 140 mph sustained winds and is expected to make landfall Wednesday afternoon.