One staple of economics and business reporting is the "odd indicator" story.
Having done a few in our time, we know a good one when we see it.
The Wall Street Journal offers a look at the "Waffle House Index," which is part economic indicator, part hurricane gauge.
As Craig Fuguate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency explains to the Journal, if you get to a town after a disaster and the Waffle House is closed: "That's really bad. That's where you go to work."
"The Waffle House," according to the Journal, "spends almost nothing on advertising, and has built a marketing strategy around the goodwill gained from being open when customers are most desperate."
So if its restaurants aren't open, that means the damage has been pretty bad.
Fugate even has a color-coded system for his index that digs deeper into the what's going on:
"Green means the restaurant is serving a full menu, a signal that damage in an area is limited and the lights are on. Yellow means a limited menu, indicating power from a generator, at best, and low food supplies. Red means the restaurant is closed, a sign of severe damage in the area or unsafe conditions." By Wednesday night, the index was looking pretty good in places that were hit hard by Hurricane Irene over the weekend. The Journal says that of the company's "22 restaurants in North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware ... all but one in hard-hit coastal Virginia were back in business."