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Hurricane Dorian: 'If there's not a Waffle House open, do not be in that area'

Cocoa Beach restaurant stays open ahead of Dorian

COCOA BEACH, Fla. – While most businesses are boarded up and closed with Cocoa Beach under a mandatory evacuation from Hurricane Dorian, one restaurant has remained open leading up to the storm.

The Waffle House on State Road A1A was serving customers early Tuesday as outer bands from the major hurricane swept through the area.

The staff at the restaurant said they were offering a limited menu due to the storm, but intended on staying open as long as they could.

"If someone needs a place to eat, somewhere to go (and) they're not used to cooking at home, they know the Waffle House is going to be open," manager Shawn Spellmeyer said. "And if they're not, they should run, because if there's not a Waffle House open, do not be in that area."

Five workers staffed the restaurant and said they planned to shelter in place unless conditions worsened to the point they needed to evacuate.

"We're just glad to give somebody a place to eat in the middle of a hurricane," Spellmeyer said.

Waffle House restaurants are known for staying open during natural disasters, and federal officials use them to determine the severity of a hurricane, tornado or other hazards on a local area.

[FLASHBACK: Waffle House closes in Panama City Beach during Hurricane Michael]

The Federal Emergency Management Agency coined the "Waffle House Index" to measure the toll of a natural disaster. If a Waffle House closes or limits its menu during such threats, the federal government determines the area took a major hit.

Waffle House spokesman Pat Warner said FEMA came up with the test during the 2004 hurricane season in Florida.

"If we are open quickly after the storm, that means the community is coming back and folks are out, we are getting back to that sense of normalcy," Warner told CNN's Brooke Baldwin on Wednesday. "After a storm, they're really looking to us to be there to help them out because they're used to us being there the rest of the year."

Waffle House is headquartered in Georgia, and has more than 2,000 restaurants, most of them in the South.

About the Author:

Mark Lehman became a News 6 reporter in July 2014, but he's been a Central Florida journalist and part of the News 6 team for much longer. While most people are fast asleep in their bed, Mark starts his day overnight by searching for news on the streets of Central Florida.