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Hurricane Beryl struck southeast Texas on Monday, leaving millions of people in the Houston area without power. But because the tracker of the city’s main power company was experiencing technical issues, there was no way to check the status of the outages – or to find the places that were still lit where residents could buy food, gas and other necessities.

Then Bryan Norton, a 55-year-old engineer and podcast host, found help from an unexpected source: the Whataburger app.

The app’s map showed where restaurants — which are spread across Houston — were still open. Instead of giving Texans information about where to grab burgers, biscuits and taquitos, Norton soon realized the map could also be used to pinpoint where in the city power was still on or had been restored.

His discovery went viral after he posted it on social media, where thousands thanked him for helping them find out if their loved ones had power or how to escape the scorching heat as temperatures and humidity soared.

“The fact that Whataburger’s app gives us that little bit of hope – well, it doesn’t get more Texan than that,” Norton told the Washington Post.

Norton’s eureka moment came during a nighttime hunt for food. His home in Tomball, Texas – a city about 35 miles north of Houston – lost power around 7 a.m. Monday when Beryl made landfall as a Category 1 storm, knocking down power lines and trees. His backup generator soon kicked in, lighting up the house and starting a refrigerator where the barbecue fan had stored pounds of meat. The internet, however, went down in the afternoon.

Although he and his wife planned to hole up for a few days, they didn’t want to “go completely crazy,” Norton said. That night, they decided to look for open restaurants — a search that led Norton to a restaurant chain that “tastes like my childhood memories,” he said.

He downloaded the Whataburger app, and the only restaurant in Tomball appeared to be open, which made Norton a little skeptical, so he expanded his search to the entire Houston area — and soon saw a patchwork of gray and orange Ws, the latter indicating the Whataburgers that were open.

“You could see this whole wave of gray and some orange, and they were gradually changing,” Norton said. “I just thought, ‘Oh my goodness! Now we can see the extent of the problem.’ Of course, it’s not a perfect tool, but it’s pretty solid.”

After Norton on X reported it, the news quickly spread on social media, being shared on neighborhood pages and in family group chats. Users noted that an open Whataburger was a sign that nearby gas stations or stores might also have power — a useful tracking service at a time when utility CenterPoint Energy’s power restoration map was down.

As of Wednesday evening, power has been restored to over a million customers, according to CenterPoint’s website, up from a peak of about 2.26 million on Monday. About 40 percent of the 165 Whataburger stores in the greater Houston area are open.

A CenterPoint spokesperson said in a statement to The Post that the outage map has been unavailable since a devastating storm in May caused “technical challenges” when customers flooded the site. There are plans to replace the map with a “redesigned cloud-based platform” by the end of July, the spokesperson added.

“We are aware of the inconvenience to our customers and will continue to provide updated information regarding the outages,” the statement continued.

The extent of the outages and the lack of a map have frustrated residents of the country’s fourth-largest city. For Carliss Chatman, a professor of business law at Southern Methodist University, the problem raises questions about Houston’s preparedness.

“I can start my car from anywhere in the world using my phone, but CenterPoint can’t tell me where the power went out,” Chatman said. “So you’re telling me that a burger joint has better information about outages than a power company?”

Like many Houstonians, Chatman spent most of Tuesday checking on loved ones. Everyone, she said, had the same burning question: “When will my power come back on?”

Chatman used the Whataburger app after a friend shared a post about Norton’s trick. When she saw that a Whataburger near her house was open even though her house was still without power, she thought the hack hadn’t worked.

But within 10 minutes, her power was back on. She said she compared her friends’ zip codes with the Whataburger map and found it was “really accurate” in showing whether areas had power.

When Michelle Guillot Thibodeaux, 49, heard about what has since been dubbed the “Watt-aburger map” or “Whataburger workaround,” she used it to try to find out if her Airbnb rentals in Galveston still had power. After seeing that the two Whataburgers in the area were marked as closed, she assumed the power in the area was still out.

“It’s crazy and incredibly ironic that we rely on a Texas company like Whataburger to figure out where there is power,” Thibodeaux said. “But people are resourceful and will do whatever it takes to figure out where there is power.”

Ed Nelson, president and CEO of Whataburger, said the company is glad Houstonians find the app useful, but cautioned that the app should be used “only as a general guide to power availability.”

This isn’t the first time a restaurant chain has been named as a disaster response number during a storm. When disaster strikes the East Coast, even the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) relies on something called the Waffle House Index to gauge the severity of the situation.

For example, if a Waffle House location is red—that is, closed—the conditions are considered severe, as with the Whataburger tracker.

Fittingly, the Waffle House is one of the few restaurants still open near Thibodeaux’s Galveston property, she said.