A Monster Hail Storm Tears Up Your House. What's Next?
When the hail does come....take cover. (Watch for the roof vent falling in the pool after being knocked off by hail)
It Was a Surreal Few Minutes, that Imprinted an Indelible Motion Picture in Our Minds.
The afternoon was pretty regular for us. I happened to be home when my wife came through the door after working at her part-time job at the insurance agency. I had already planned to have hamburgers, and the meat was thawed and seasoned, ready to throw on the grill. It was around 5:30 in the afternoon, and since it was a very comfortable 85 degrees, it seemed the perfect afternoon to set the patio table with chips, drinks, and burgers. We were talking and listening to the birds chirp, looking over the crystal blue water in our pool and planning where and what type flowers would make the landscape "pop". We had just finished eating when we realized the sky was growing darker and the birds suddenly went quiet. A strange eeriness was in the air, one that I have struggled to describe before, and one that I have heard others talk about just before a tornado or big storm occurs. Maybe it's just the pressure changes in the atmosphere, or when you become hyper-aware of the surroundings and some unknown adrenaline surge is telling you to "Stand and Fight or Run Like Hell!", but I said to my wife, "something's about to happen, let's move inside". Just then the first few raindrops started falling and the wind starts to gust noticeably cooler, growing stronger and stronger and soon after, the first hail stones started falling. Just one or two at first, every half minute apart. That's when I fumbled to grab my cell phone and set to video mode.
We live in Texas and have most of our lives and seeing a hail storm is certainly nothing new. As an independent Insurance Adjuster, I've also seen plenty of storms and their aftermath, but mostly the aftermath. However, viewing and recording this one live and seeing the size and intensity of the hail stones....well, it was something new and shocking for me.
Later, when the storm was over, we moved cautiously through the house. Seeing those softball-size hail stones hit the pool water was mesmerizing, but seeing what it had done on the front of the house was downright scary. As we moved through the breakfast nook, through the kitchen, and into the dining room, where there are 3- seven-foot, side-by-side windows with an arched glass above, we saw what 4-inch diameter ice balls could really do. The front and side of the house took the brunt of the damage, since that was the direction from which the storm came .
How fast does hail fall?
It takes more than just a thunderstorm to create a hailstone 4 inches or more in diameter, it takes a “supercell” thunderstorm. It's the power of the updraft in a storm that produces any hail. As raindrops form they are carried upward by a thunderstorm into extreme cold areas of the atmosphere and freeze, over and over again
According to the The National Severe Storms Laboratory's website, ".......it is possible for very large hailstones (diameters exceeding 4-inches) to fall at over 100 mph”
We Found Glass Shards Embedded in the Walls Opposite the Broken Windows, 12 Feet Away!
We were very thankful that our attention was on the hail falling in the backyard after we saw the dining room. The windows there, and in the bedroom/office, were shattered and glass had spewed through the closed mini blinds lIke it came out of a sawed-off shot gun. Had we been eating at the dining room table, we would have been showered with glass. There were also several hail stones in the rooms, as you might expect, and as you can see the size from the one my wife is holding. She found it in a closet about 15 feet away from the window.
There were so many tiny slivers of glass in the carpet, dinning room table and chair cushions, not to mention embedded in the walls and even on the laptop keyboard, that those things had to be replaced. Even the throw rugs in the adjacent rooms has to be sent out for professional cleaning. And because of the photographic proof that I had, documenting the damages for insurance purposes, we were able to have all of that included in the claim settlement.
Stay tuned for some insurance pointers.
1) Take lots of photos. With digital is better to have too many than too little.
2) Take several shots of the damage from different angles.For example, if you have a
damaged patio table, take one from a top view and side view,.
3) If you have receipts for items that are damaged, take a picture of the item and the
the receipt, and any identifiers, like UPC labels.
4) For items like flower pots, show size by setting a ruler next to it. Don’t forget the
Next Call Your Insurance Agent. Whether Your House is in Livable Condition or Not. If You’re On The List Early, You’ll Be On Your Way Back To Normal Quicker
In our case, once the storm ended it was gone and the weather cleared, allowing us to get the roof tarped and the windows boarded up. Within a day or two, the insurance company had sent out a mitigation company with commercial blowers to keep air circulating continuously throughout the entire hours.This will start the drying out process and prevent mold from forming. We had all of the furniture and bedding in every room in the house covered with plastic and pulled to the center of the room, and with these high-powered fans roaring and whipping the plastic non-stop, the din of noise was maddening. I set up a cot in the enclosed patio room while my wife was away visiting our son in another state. Baseboard trim in every room had to be removed and 3” holes drilled every few feet into the sheet rock at the bottom near the floor to allow airflow to get up in the walls. Some of our neighbors had to evacuate to a motel while they had their own contractors do the work and this was one of the times that I was envious of their choice. When my wife did finally return we began working together to restore our marvelous mess.
Just some thoughts regarding your insurance policy. If you’re like most people, you’ve never read an insurance policy and have no desire to, and I don’t blame you. If I were not involved in the industry I would have never spent one minute on such a boring document. But considering that you put your signature to a legally binding contract, you may want to dig it out of the filing cabinet and spend an hour going through it sometime. Knowing terms like ACV (Actual Cost Value) and RCV (Replacement Cost Value) will make you at least sound like you’re “in the know”. Not that the insurance company will ever try to cheat in any way, but if you appear to have a grasp of the policy meaning and language, it gives you confidence, and the insurance company representative will likely side with you on any gray areas of coverage.Take a look at a few more photos and I think you see for yourself the scope of damages we were faced with for the next few months.
The Hard Work Begins
Once the storm is over, the damage accessed, the insurance company gives the go ahead, and the materials acquired, then we began by taping and draping plastic sheeting along the walls to protect everything below the ceiling. The water-damaged ceiling had to be evaluated for integrity. Immediately after the storm was over, we began to notice areas where the water was starting to stain the ceiling. I knew that meant that water was standing on top of the ceiling sheet rock. When it would become visible, I took a screwdriver and poked a hole in the center of the stain. That allowed the water to drain through the damaged area and because of that immediate action, we saved almost all of the ceiling, where water damage occurred, from having to be replaced. A few days later, with the fans having done their job of drying out the house, we were able to begin repairs to those ceiling areas. This is just one of those things the insurance companies will commend you for....."mitigating damage", but I didn't just do it for them. It is a huge job to tear out and replace ceiling drywall, and I wanted to save myself that work.
My goal was for us to receive the maximum insurance settlement and to save money by doing as much of the work as possible ourselves. With the money we had left over, we tiled the floors instead or re-carpeting and upgraded the exterior windows. Insurance companies have a slogan, "We'll pay to have you put back to where you were before the storm". That sounds pretty good until you realize that they're only going to replace your carpet to the lowest or medium grade unless you can prove that you had premium carpet. That also applies to windows, garage doors, and even dwelling doors. So if you only had builders grade products to begin with (and most of us do), then that's what you can expect when they settle the claim.
It Was a Long Two Months
That's about how long it took to complete the repair process. Within in a couple of weeks we had a new roof, but not without incident. I called my roofer, and of course he was busy with other jobs, as was every roofer in the area, but he worked me in. It happened that on the day they started there was a thunderstorm threat for the afternoon. As fate would have it, they were just finishing up with about 1 hour left when it hit like a cloudburst of rain and wind. The guys were all scrambling to pull the huge plastic cover over the roof and I was helping to hold down one corner (I was on the ground) when a gust of wind surged under at my corner. If you can imagine this black plastic tarp filling with air and starting to resemble a hot-air balloon. I'm holding on as tightly as I can until I begin to lift off the ground, at which point I let go an my end of the plastic races skyward, releasing all the trapped air and it flapping wildly. They're all mad at me for not holding on. Afterwards it was funny......but not at the time.
Needless to say, as you can see in the before and after pictures, it all came together eventually. I hope I never go through it again, but I got a lot of work out of the storm, and the entire neighborhood and community got some needed upgrades to their houses, all compliments to the insurance companies!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.