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As Hurricane Ian made landfall along the southwest coast of Florida Wednesday, Waffle House took precautionary measures.
The 24-hour breakfast chain temporarily closed dozens of locations along the Gulf Coast from Bradenton to Naples, and more restaurants are expected to be affected.
"We currently have approximately 35 restaurants closed, but that number will fluctuate quite a bit," Njeri Boss, vice president of public relations at Waffle House, Inc. told PEOPLE. "We are in the process of reopening restaurants, depending on power availability, safety and staffing, among other issues."
She continued: "We are working diligently to continue to serve the communities in which we are located."
Closures are a tell-tale sign of Hurricane Ian's severity, as Waffle House often provides resources to emergency officials and community members during extreme weather, typically braving threatening storms. In January 2021, the chain's food truck was handing out meals in Fultondale, Alabama after a tornado struck the city; additionally, locations were open during a winter storm in Monroe, Louisiana in February 2021, per The Weather Channel.
Waffle House's typical adherence to an open-in-rain-or-shine mantra is often one that even the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) unofficially follows as an indicator of how threatening a storm is.
"If you get there and the Waffle House is closed?" former FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate has said in the past. "That's really bad. That's where you go to work."
A 2011 blog post for FEMA stated how the agency looks to the popular chain as a barometer of sorts, coined by Fugate as the Waffle House Index.
"The Waffle House test doesn't just tell us how quickly a business might rebound – it also tells us how the larger community is faring. The sooner restaurants, grocery and corner stores, or banks can re-open, the sooner local economies will start generating revenue again – signaling a stronger recovery for that community," the statement read.
Hurricane Ian made landfall near Cayo Costa, Florida, as a catastrophic Category 4 storm, with its 150 mph winds snapping apart trees, ripping homes to shreds and tearing down power lines across the coastline.
On Thursday, President Joe Biden officially declared the state of Florida a major disaster zone, sending federal aid to residents in Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Hardee, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Pinellas and Sarasota counties.