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Hurricane Ian forces Waffle House locations in Florida to close

Waffle House CEO Walt Ehmer says managers are “making calls on the ground” as to whether or not it’s safe enough to operate during a hurricane.

American diner chain Waffle House is shuttering multiple locations in Florida as Hurricane Ian comes ashore.

The beloved restaurant franchise is known for staying open even during severe weather. The decision to close ahead of the hurricane's landfall has been seen as a bad omen under the so-called Waffle House Index.

HURRICANE IAN POWER OUTAGES SPIKE IN FLORIDA

Twenty-one locations were closed as of Wednesday morning, USA Today reports.

People waiting in Waffle House line

People wait in the rain to enter a Wilmington, North Carolina, Waffle House on Sept. 15, 2018, a day after Hurricane Florence hit the area. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images / Getty Images)

"We do have closures in mandatory evacuation zones and areas within low-lying areas that are subject to severe flooding," Waffle House spokesperson Njeri Boss told the outlet.

The Waffle House Index, which was started with Hurricane Charley during the 2004 hurricane season, assigns color codes to measure the state of areas impacted by a storm.

"Waffle House became almost like a rough guidepost," former FEMA director Craig Fugate, the creator of the index, told FOX Business during 2019's Hurricane Dorian. "If it was open and had a full menu, we probably weren’t in the worst-hit areas yet."

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Such a scenario was marked green.

A restaurant that was open with a limited menu, which probably wasn’t in the hardest-hit area, was tagged yellow. Any restaurant that was closed was red.

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Power outages have begun to sweep across Lee, Collier and Sarasota counties and other locations in southwest Florida.

Florida resident stares out at the ocean ahead of Hurricane Ian

People look out as clouds from the approaching Hurricane Ian darken the sky over St. Petersburg, Florida, on Sept. 27, 2022. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images / Getty Images)

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National Weather Service director Ken Graham called Hurricane Ian a "historic event" that will be talked about "for many years to come."

"I wish this wasn't a forecast I had to deliver," Graham said Wednesday. "I wish this wasn't a forecast that's about to come true. This is a devastating storm for parts of Florida, not just on the southwest coast but also inland associated with some of these impacts."

"This is going to be a storm we talk about for many years to come," Graham said.

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