Thursday, May 11, 2017

The damage from Monday’s hailstorm was severe and widespread in the Denver metro area

Is Monday’s hailstorm among the costliest to hit the Denver area? Agency that tallies them in “wait and see” mode
Reports of broken windows , flooding and damaged cars ripple across metro area

RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post Jesus Munoz, of Professional Restoration, hooks up hoses to dry out the Colorado Mills Mall on May 9, 2017 in Lakewood, Colorado. The mall’s roof was damaged in the recent hail storm.
By John Aguilar | | The Denver Post
PUBLISHED: May 9, 2017 at 4:53 pm | UPDATED: May 10, 2017 at 7:05 am

The damage from Monday’s hailstorm was severe and widespread in the Denver metro area, breaking out windows at a university, flooding sections of a hospital and shattering windshields and pummeling roofs on scores of cars.

But was the storm destructive enough to make it on to the top 10 list of Colorado’s most damaging hailstorms?
Colorado’s Costliest Hail Storms
July 11, 1990 • Denver Metro
$1.1 billion (2015 dollars) / $625M (cost when occurred)
July 20, 2009 • Denver Metro
$845.5M / $767.6M
June 13-14, 1984 • Denver Metro
$629.3M / $276.7M
June 6-15, 2009 • Denver Metro
$389.2M / $353.3M
Oct. 1, 1994 • Denver Metro
$358.8M / $225M
July 28, 2016 • Colorado Springs
$352.8M / $352.8M
June 6-7, 2012 • Front Range
$330.5M / $321.1M
July 29, 2009 • Pueblo
$256.5M / $232.8M
Sept. 29, 2014 • Denver Metro
$213.4M / $213.3M
May 22, 2008 • Windsor
$212.3M / $193.5M
July 13, 2011 • Front Range
$173.1M / $164.8M

Source: Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Assoc.

“We’re still in a ‘wait and see’ mode,” said Carole Walker, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association, which tallies the financial cost of storms and natural disasters in Colorado. “But any time we start using sports terms — gold ball, tennis ball or baseball sized — we’re concerned that it’s a catastrophic event.”

A quick scroll through Twitter on Monday turned up plenty of photos from in and around Denver of hailstones that meet those oft-used size comparisons, and a National Weather Service meteorologist confirmed that the largest piece of falling ice reported was 2¾ inches in diameter. It landed near Lutheran Medical Center in Wheat Ridge.

“We got a lot of hail — and it was big and it was ugly,” said Sarah Ellis, a spokeswoman for Lutheran. “The water damage in the hospital was the main damage we had.”

Still, out in the hospital’s parking lot, “dozens” of cars ended up with busted windshields and dinged hoods, she said.

Colorado’s most destructive hailstorm to date goes back nearly 27 years, when a July 11, 1990, storm wrought $1.1 billion in damage in today’s dollars. Second on the list is an $845.5 million icy wallop in July 2009.

Matt Genova, assistant vice president of personal lines for Greenwood Village-based insurance outfit CCIG, said if forecasts for more hail on Tuesday come true, this week’s series of storms may get categorized as one event.

“That right there could potentially push it toward the higher end of the rankings,” he said.

That was the case eight years ago when storms on nine consecutive days in June were lumped together as a single event, pushing it to fourth on the state’s list of costliest hailstorms in 2015 dollars. Genova said he and his colleagues were fielding calls from homeowners and motorists until 7 p.m. Monday and were back at it early Tuesday.

Fred Zietz cleans up after the recent hail storm on May 9, 2017 in Lakewood, Colorado.

“Based on the volume of calls, it seems pretty severe,” he said.

Walker said the size of the hail, particularly in areas west of Denver, could render a large number of vehicles undrivable as people await windshield replacement and more serious repairs. Denver-area auto glass shops reported being “swamped” with calls from people whose car windows got smashed in the storm.

“This could result in more totaled vehicles, not just telltale dimples,” Walker said.

The damage to vehicles was not limited to commuters. At Lakewood Windish RV Center, one of the largest retailers of Airstreams in the metro area, about a hundred of the signature silver aluminum trailers were damaged by Monday’s hail. Michelle Becker, who works at the business, called the damage to inventory “devastating.”

“We got hit really hard,” she said.

As did Colorado Mills, which is just a few miles away from Windish on West Colfax Avenue. The mall closed after hail busted skylights and caused extensive flooding inside stores.

“Our team is working to ensure the property is safe and continues to evaluate the extent of repairs needed for our retailers to get back to business as soon as possible,” the mall wrote on its Facebook page Tuesday.

Lakewood spokeswoman Stacie Oulton said the city saw damage at its heritage center and municipal building from the storm and that 50 city vehicles were damaged. Calls to the city’s dispatch center spiked in the hour during which the storm raged — the 160 calls that came in were two to three times the normal volume, Oulton said.

One of those calls concerned two motorists fighting over a covered parking spot at a Walgreens on West Colfax Avenue. A man, desperate to protect his vehicle from the hail, pulled a gun on a woman who was driving into the space, Oulton said.

But despite Monday’s chaos, she doesn’t think the storm will match the ferocity and damage wrought by a fierce hailstorm on July 20, 2009. After that event, Lakewood issued 15,000 roofing permits.

“We don’t think this storm is quite there yet,” she said.
Andy Cross, The Denver PostBroken windows at Beach Court Elementary School on Tuesday, May 9, 2017. The school was closed for the day to repair damage inside and out due Monday’s severe hail storm.

Wheat Ridge City Manager Patrick Goff agreed, saying the 2009 storm, with its sideways winds caused more damage to homes than Monday’s. But he noted the scope of vehicle damage this time around — including to 60 percent of the city’s fleet — that was likely due to the storm arriving shortly before evening rush hour.

At the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the Denver West area, only one of 3,000 solar panels was cracked by hail.

History-making or not, Monday’s storm was terrifying for those who found themselves in its sights. Gina Leyba, a project manager for the web team at Regis University, said what she experienced this week was unlike anything she had seen in the 20 years she has worked at the northwest Denver school.

She watched a window in her office shatter — one of 60 windows that were broken at the university — as the storm blew in from the west. “The size of the hail that hit — you could tell it was large,” Leyba said. “It was crazy — I’ve never seen anything like it.