How hard is Irma hitting Miami? Cuban coffee 1 way to tell

By Jennifer Kay / Associated Press

MIAMI — To gauge Hurricane Irma’s impact on Miami, some won’t be watching just weather reports; they’ll be tracking Cuban coffee consumption.

Cuban-style espresso, or cafecito, is a staple of daily life in Miami. Former Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Craig Fugate says how fast Cuban coffee stands reopen — and how many customers they draw — may indicate how badly the city is faring.

“Cuban coffee stands — if those are closed, it is bad,” Fugate said.

Fugate, who led Florida’s emergency management division during the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons, used the Waffle House restaurant chain for the same purpose in previous storms.

Iconic across much of the South, Waffle House is known for being open all the time. According to Fugate’s “Waffle House Index,” a closed restaurant was a very bad sign. A restaurant open but only offering a limited menu indicated some trouble. Full menu options were a sign that disaster had been averted.

There are no Waffle Houses in Miami, so Fugate suggested Cuban coffee as an alternative.

Some of the city’s law enforcement officers have made cafecito an essential part of their hurricane survival packs.

The Miami Police department tweeted a picture late Saturday showing a stovetop coffee maker atop a camp stove set up next to a police car.

“As our officers ride out the storm, some have brought the #Miami essentials to help them get through the night,” the tweet said.

There is one Waffle House in Florida’s Key Largo, where resident John Huston reported seeing boats, furniture and refrigerators floating down the street after Irma landed Sunday with 130-mph (210-kph) winds, .

No one answered the phone at the restaurant.

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