Monday, May 8, 2017 should not have been a particularly eventful day, but in parts of Colorado’s Front Range it turned into a day that few will likely ever forget. A massive thunderstorm rolled through the metro area that afternoon, dropping baseball-sized hail on much of the city right in the middle of the evening rush hour, smashing car windows, damaging homes, and leaving piles of hail all over roads and highways.
It was a mess.
The most dramatic damage ended up localized around the Colorado Mills mall on the west side of the city, where hail damaged not only hundreds of vehicles in the parking lot, but did so much damage to the building itself – punching holes in the roof – that the mall was forced to shut down for repairs. It is not expected to open for at least six months.
According to the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association, the storm will likely rank as the most expensive natural disaster in state history, with claims in excess of $1.4 billion, based on preliminary estimates. That would surpass the previous record-setting storm of June 20, 2009 that cost $845.5 million and the July 11, 1990 storm that cost $1.1 billion, both based on today’s dollars.
About a week later, hundreds of cars limped into the parking lot at Sports Authority Field in Denver, where insurer State Farm had set up a mobile estimate station to process hail damage claims. It was just one of several such clinics in the region.
Hail Alley Is Real
“Large hail is pretty rare this close to the Front Range,” Charles Knight, a researcher at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, told The Denver Post after the early May storm. “It’s pretty rare anywhere.”
Rare, but not impossible.
Colorado’s unique geography and climate are just right to create record-breaking hail, as we saw last month, and the state’s location in what meteorologists call “Hail Alley” – which stretches across Nebraska and Wyoming as well – means hailstorms in the area are a common part of summer. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, Colorado’s ranks second nationally behind Texas for hail loss claims and has 10 or more days of severe hail per year on average.
Due to the low freezing level in the region – how close to the ground that the atmosphere falls below 32 degrees Fahrenheit on average – hail stones are more likely to survive intact all the way to the ground without melting here, according to NOAA.
The good news is that most homeowners insurance policies cover hail damage as long as the homeowner makes a timely claim in the event of a loss. Most insurers require that a homeowner file a claim for hail damage within 12 to 24 months of a storm, but the limits vary from policy to policy. What’s more, homeowners that experience hail-related damage but don’t know it may find that they have passed the time limit for their insurance coverage without even knowing it.
But what about buying a home that has hail damage that was never repaired? In that case, it’s up to the buyer – and their home inspector – to identify and rectify the situation before taking ownership.
What to Look For
According to the National Storm Damage Center, hail damage to an asphalt roof looks up close like dark spots where the roofing granules have been knocked away. These bruises can spread, leading to weak spots in the roof itself and, eventually, leaks. They can be hard to spot from the ground, but a qualified inspector can quickly identify a compromised roof.
Other signs of hail damage to look for include:
- Missing shingles
- Bruises or dented asphalt shingles
- Cracked or broken tile, slate, or concrete shingles
- Granules collecting in gutters or downspouts
- Leaks in your roof or ceiling
- Dents on vents, gutters or flashing
Exterior Walls and Siding:
- Dings and dents
- Cracks and splitting
- Holes and breaks
- Chipping and discoloration
- Shattered windows
- Cracks and holes
- Broken panes
- Damaged frames