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A Houston-area man uses the Whataburger app to check for power outages in his area after Hurricane Beryl made landfall in Texas.

“The Whataburger app works as a power outage tracker, which is handy since the power company doesn’t display a map,” BBQBryan said in a post on X. “Still nearly 1.9 million power outages.”

According to PowerOutage.us – an independent website that tracks power outages across the U.S. – more than two million Texans are still without power. Beryl hit the Gulf Coast around 4 a.m. Tuesday as a Category 1 hurricane. The 65 mph winds knocked down power lines and toppled trees. At least eight people have died and millions are without power.

There are more than 300 power companies in Texas, each of which runs their own business in their own way. Many of them, in fact almost all of them, maintain outage maps that are updated live so customers can see the extent of an outage and where work is underway to restore power. Websites like PowerOutage.us and USA Today’s tracker map simply aggregate the data published by these local power companies.

The Houston-area utility that is making it difficult for its customers to view a map of power outages appears to be CenterPoint Energy. “CenterPoint Energy’s primary outage management system is currently offline,” a notice on PowerOutage.us reads. “Currently, they can only report the number of customers who are out across their entire service area.”

There can be several reasons for this. Outage maps are often created in near real time. The information is transmitted to the utility through on-site receptors that are part of an outage management system (OMS). These systems are often detailed enough that utility companies can pinpoint a street or individual customer with a power outage. CenterPoint still provides outage numbers on its website, but no detailed map.

Customers don’t always need that much information, and a massive outage like this can put a strain on the OMS. It takes a lot of data and power to deliver that amount of information in real time. It’s possible that CenterPoint turned off real-time updates to its OMS to avoid overloading the system. This is fairly routine during major events like a hurricane. CenterPoint did not respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment.

Lacking good information about natural disasters, Americans turn their lonely eyes to what has long given them comfort: fast-food companies. Whataburger, a popular burger joint in Texas, has an app that provides real-time updates on which branches are open and which are closed. The company is open 24/7, so users in Houston can follow the map and get a sense of how power restoration is progressing as the orange Ws light up. It’s similar to the Waffle House Index, an old FEMA maxim that says you can tell how prepared an area is for a natural disaster by how quickly the local Waffle House reopens after the disaster hits.

“Whataburger is the friend that’s by your side through good times and bad. We’re happy that the Whataburger app has helped Houstonians find where power is available in the city,” Whataburger CEO Ed Nelson said in an email to Gizmodo. “Remember, the app should only be used as a general idea of ​​power availability. We encourage residents to call local power companies to see if they are open and operating. Please stay safe when you leave your home.”