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As southeast reels from Michael's destruction, closed Waffle Houses begin to reopen

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 3 days ago Joel Shannon
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A day after the most powerful hurricane on record to hit Florida's Panhandle made landfall, estimates said that more than 1 million people were without power, but some closed Waffle House locations had already begun to reopen.

Although the chain is known for staying open during some of the worst natural disasters, the threat of Hurricane Michael managed to shut down 30 restaurants, a Waffle House representative said Wednesday evening.

On Thursday, several locations had reopened. Waffle House spokesman Pat Warner told USA TODAY that the number of closed locations had decreased to 19 on Thursday night, with 15 Florida locations and four Georgia restaurants closed.

People inspect a Waffle House damaged by Hurricane Michael in Callaway, Florida, U.S. October 11, 2018. © REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman People inspect a Waffle House damaged by Hurricane Michael in Callaway, Florida, U.S. October 11, 2018.

Among the reopened locations: Two in Panama City Beach. That's particularly striking as that area was devastated by the storm. 

A separate Waffle House location in Panama City sustained significant damage, according to local media reports. 

Previously reported: Hurricane Michael is so bad that Waffle House has closed 30 restaurants

More: Striking photos and video from Michael's path of destruction

A billboard fell on that location, WJAX-TV reported. Video from the scene showed dangling light fixtures, shattered windows and debris strewn throughout the restaurant.

Michael smashed into the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday as a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph at landfall — just two miles shy of a Category 5.

The Waffle House Storm Center, a team that mobilizes during extreme weather, has been monitoring the storm's path since Monday.

Waffle House restaurants rarely close, often providing food and resources to first responders during natural disasters.

Ashley May contributed to this story.

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