Several Waffle House restaurant locations, a staple of southern dining, are closing their doors down in an atypical move for the chain known to rarely if ever, put a “Closed” sign in its windows.
Eighteen restaurants in total, located in the evacuation zones of the Florida panhandle, have shut and locked their doors in anticipation of Hurricane Michael, which is approaching the area. The restaurants are located between Panama City and Destin, according to USA Today, a stretch of land that’s about 55 miles long.
At the Panama City Beach location, customers were stunned to see a handwritten “Closed” sign hanging from the inside of the doorway to the restaurant. “I don’t know if I’ve seen that in my entire life,” local television reporter Ryan Kruger said.
The shock at seeing a Waffle House location closed is a testament to how dangerous Hurricane Michael has become for the area. The restaurant chain is known to keep its doors open every day of the year, even during natural disaster events, often serving food to responders working on helping survivors in those areas.
But as Florida Gov. Rick Scott pointed out, the hurricane is nothing to mess around with.
“This is the worst storm that our Florida Panhandle has seen in a century,” Scott said, according to reporting from CNN. “Hurricane Michael is upon us, and now is the time to seek refuge.”
Pat Warner, the director of personal Relations for the Waffle House, said that the closures wouldn’t last too long. “We will be there right after the storm to re-open,” Warner said.
Previous storms have not affected Waffle House restaurants in the same way that Hurricane Michael has this week. Indeed, during Hurricane Florence earlier this year, residents actually went to several restaurants in order to see how bad the storm would really be, according to reporting from 11Alive.com.
But many are anticipating that Hurricane Michael’s destruction could have long-lasting effects even after it passes the area. The storm is projected to make landfall on Wednesday and is set to become the strongest hurricane to ever hit the Florida panhandle.
The hurricane has the potential of storm surges reaching as high as 14 feet. As of Wednesday morning, the center of the storm had reached sustained speeds of 150 miles per hour.
‘There will be hundreds of thousands, if not millions, without power for a very long time,” CNN meteorologist Chad Myers projected.