Oh, Hail


Look closely and you can see the “golf balls”.

It was Monday afternoon and the sky had begun to darken. It looked like a storm was imminent so I decided to make a quick trip to the grocery store to grab some things for dinner before the rain started. I took a light raincoat just in case and headed out. The temperature had dropped appreciably since I had been out earlier, something I really like about Colorado. When that sun gets blocked the temps usually start heading down, unlike Houston where it can still be in the 90’s while it is raining cats and dogs.

I pulled in to King Soopers and decided to leave the raincoat and take a chance on getting in and out in a hurry. I could sense a bit of urgency in the other shoppers coming and going. Weather moves fast around here and you have to be ready. I dashed in and grabbed the items I needed and was on the way home in a matter of ten minutes or so. As I drove along I could see that the dark clouds had rolled up to the edge of my neighborhood and fat raindrops had started to fall intermittently. I crossed my fingers, hoping that I could get to my place before the deluge. I pulled in to the parking lot, jumped out of my car and strode purposefully to my apartment. I made it without issue.

As I entered my apartment and dropped my bags I walked over to the window in my living room to close it. I heard a loud crash on my roof. My first thought was “What the hell are they (maintenance) doing on the roof, especially with the weather closing in?” There was another loud crash and then another. “Oh shit! Hail.” I turned to the window, which overlooks a parking lot – I’m on the third floor – to see golf ball sized hailstones crashing down. The sound was deafening.

My first concern was damage to my car. I looked at the cars in the parking lot to see if they were being dented. They were. Big time. Within moments windows started breaking in some of the cars. I had a bad feeling. At that moment part of my skylight crashed to the living room floor. I turned back to the parking lot and observed many more windows breaking, huge dents on the tops, hoods and trunks of the cars. More pieces of my skylight came crashing down. I moved in to a position to look up at it without being directly below it. Thank goodness it was made of plexiglass – two separate layers – but pieces of it continued to rain down.

I started to assess the damage potential. What am I going to need to move if the skylight breaches? The “if” became an afterthought as a hole the size of a dinner plate appeared and hail stones began raining in, bouncing off of the carpet and sofa. I grabbed a few items and moved them to the bedroom. Another hole appeared in the skylight and more ice came flying through the openings. After about ten minutes the hail stones started to subside and a steady, heavy drizzle started to come down. That was my worst nightmare, pouring rain through an open skylight. I grabbed a tarp I happened to have handy and got ready to cover my TV and other electronics. Fortunately the storm passed and all that remained was a light drizzle that didn’t appear to pose a problem. Good for now.


My thought turned to my car. I looked out over the parking lot and I could see that about 20% of the cars had broken windows. “Please no.” I thought. I grabbed my raincoat and headed out to see what kind of damage had been done. As I climbed the steps to the upper parking deck I ran in to the two maintenance guys shoveling hail stones out of the drain cover so that the water on the deck could drain off. The deck itself was covered with hail and ice. As I made my way to my car surveying the scene I could see that every fourth or fifth car had broken windows. I came up on my car and could see that I was spared. No broken glass. I did, however, have huge dents all over the vehicle. I counted myself lucky.

I headed back to my apartment and immediately called the office to report the skylight breach. There was more rain in the forecast and I couldn’t imagine an entire night, maybe more, with rain coming in to my apartment. I was told that a vendor had already been contacted and that pretty much every skylight in the complex had been breached – about 85 of them. They hoped to cover them and would work through the night to do so, but they couldn’t access the roof while the weather was threatening. Fortunately, the rain died down.

As the evening slid in to night I could see trucks, lights, people moving about the complex. As I sat watching TV about 10:30pm I heard footsteps on the roof above my apartment. Suddenly, flashlights were shining in and I could see and hear the work crew above me. A voice advised me to move out of the way and they pried the skylight out of the frame sending cascades of debris down in to my living room. They slapped a piece of plywood over the opening and I could hear the battery powered drills tightening down screws to hold it in place. The worst was over.

That happened on May 8th. When I spoke to my insurance agent I was told that their company had already had 30,000 claims. According to news reports there have been an estimated 150,000 auto insurance claims and 50,000 homeowners insurance claims. It was the most expensive catastrophe to occur in the Denver area with preliminary insurance losses estimated to be about $1.4 billion. I’m still staring at a plywood cover as it will probably take some time to fabricate and install replacements. Everywhere I go I see work crews and emergency insurance claim centers, set up in strip center parking lots. My insurance adjuster is stopping by tomorrow to assess my auto damage and estimate the amount of my repairs. I suspect I will not be happy. Truth is I might just have to take the money and live with the damage. We’ll see.

If you think that I might be exaggerating the impact, aside from the reported numbers, my local mall –  a huge outlet mall in Golden – is hoping to be able to open in time for the holidays. In November. They must have gotten the baseball sized hail. I drove by there today and all I saw were trailers and work trucks. Lots of people are out of work. Imagine how many people a a large mall employs.

I have been through hurricanes, even an earthquake. I have seen hail before, but obviously nothing like this. Of course this does not come close to comparing to a hurricane but it is a reminder that Mother Nature can sure wreak havoc. Perhaps something to think about as we debate, or downright deny, climate change.

Food for thought.