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'Absolute hail bomb' of a storm wreaks havoc on Colorado Springs area

July 29, 2016 Updated: July 30, 2016 at 8:21 am
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Stephen Beyer holds a hail stone left in his yard Friday morning, July 29, 2016, after a storm hit his Old Farm neighborhood Thursday night destoring three skylights, their fence and siding. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

Colorado Springs often gets random hail storms that blow through in the middle of the summer, but Thursday night's storm was a new beast for many people.

Residents mainly living in northeast Colorado Springs, Security-Widefield and Fountain woke up Friday to find severe hail damage had pummeled their property.

Police Sgt. Kory Dabb accesses the damage to the fleet of police cars at the Stetson Hills police station Friday morning, July 29, 2016, after a Thursday night hail storms damaged more than two dozen vehicles. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock) 

Windows of cars and homes were smashed, dents covered almost every car hood, roofs were beaten, cloth canopies were shredded, plants and trees were ripped apart.

Colorado Springs Utilities said the weather cut power to 1,800 customers in the Cimarron Hills area.

Eighteen residents of the Value Place Motel were displaced by storm damage and spent the night in a shelter, the American Red Cross said.

Tennis ball-size hail led the Colorado Springs Airport to cancel one flight and delay others as crews worked to repair skylights, runway lights and vehicles totaling between $300,000 and $500,000 in damage. Passenger vehicles left in the parking lot also took lumps, the airport said.

Brian Bledsoe, chief meteorologist for Gazette news partner KKTV, called it "one of the worst storms of the summer" and an "absolute hail bomb."

"I knew it was going to be bad the way it came so strong and suddenly," resident Sol Sinclair said Friday as he assessed damage to his property on Holt Drive. The back window of his roommate's Kia was shattered. His week-old Ram 1500 was peppered with dents.

Flooding in the cul de sac reached the rim of his truck tires, he said.

"I've lived in Colorado 10 years, and I've never seen it this bad," Sinclair said.

The Colorado Springs Police Department wasn't spared, either.

 

Its Stetson Hills Division near Cimarron Hills suffered dents to a fleet of about 40 cars. More than half had busted windshields. In at least four vehicles, the back windshield was shattered, rendering the vehicle unusable. Officers were triaging the remaining vehicles to determine which cracks they could drive with and which would keep the cruisers parked, Lt. Catherine Buckley said.

An early count determined about 27 cruisers with windshields so damaged officers couldn't see out of them, but that number was expected to go up. One vehicle flooded.

"We're still here, we're still doing our job," Buckley said, noting vehicles were brought from other divisions to cover patrols. "The thing with police work, you always adapt."

Colorado state climatologist Nolan Doesken in Fort Collins said the weather event was an anomaly. Hail in Colorado Springs is "unusual" after dark when temperatures fall, and it's usually smaller closer to the mountains, he said.

Normally, if El Paso County is pelted with hail, it happens in the east where fewer people live, Doesken said. Still, "You can expect a few storms a year that do that somewhere across the county," Doesken said.

Some residents got lucky.

Ed Putz cleans up his yard Friday morning, July 29, 2016, after a hail storm hit his Old Farm neighborhood Thursday night damaging his truck, the siding of his home, a skylight and a window. His wife Cindy said it was the worst hail storm they had seen in the 16 years they have lived in their house in eastern Colorado Springs. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)
Ed Putz cleans up his yard Friday morning, July 29, 2016, after a hail storm hit his Old Farm neighborhood Thursday night damaging his truck, the siding of his home, a skylight and a window. His wife Cindy said it was the worst hail storm they had seen in the 16 years they have lived in their house in eastern Colorado Springs. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock) 

Josh Buhr raked hundreds of leaves from his yard while some of his neighbors had broken windows. One neighbor went out into the storm around midnight to put a tarp on their roof, he said.

"I'm sure the roof is buggered up a little bit, but I didn't come out too bad," Buhr said, though he's waiting for his insurance company to do a full assessment.

Insurance agents are busy with assessments, a State Farm spokeswoman said Friday. It will likely be next week before the full extent of the damage is known, according to Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association spokeswoman Carole Walker. The association tracks weather events that do more than $25 million in damage, she said.

Hail storms are typically the most costly.

Aside from the Black Forest and Waldo Canyon fires in Colorado Springs and a 2010 wildfire in Boulder, hail dominated the association's list of Colorado's 10 most costly catastrophes.

The most expensive storm season in Colorado was 2009, the association said. A July storm cost $1.4 billion in insured losses, with actual claims paid out totaling $767.6 million, the association said. The Waldo Canyon fire cost $453.7 million and the Black Forest fire cost $420.5 million, the association said.

Police have their own way of claiming losses.

A city insurance policy will cover the repair costs, Buckley said, but when those fixes may come is tricky. Some of the front windshields were repaired Friday, but the back windows usually require a special order, Buckley said. Vehicles with dent damage only may have to wait for repairs, she said.

The damage comes as the Police department was beefing up patrols ahead of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's visit Friday to the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

"We're still fully staffed to address security and safety," Buckley said.

The active weather could continue through next week.

"A limited supply of monsoon moisture will continue to spread across the state into the weekend, with isolated to scattered showers and thunderstorms possible each day," the National Weather Service in Pueblo said in a forecast bulletin. "The best chance for precipitation is expected to be in and near the mountains."

Colorado Springs could see a high near 88 degrees Saturday with a 20-percent chance of showers and storms persisting in the afternoon. Sunday's forecast will be similar with more possible afternoon showers, as highs are expected to be closer to 91 degrees, the weather service predicts.

"Storm chances will continue off and on into next week, with Thursday possibly being the most active day," KKTV said in a weather report.

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Contact Kaitlin Durbin: 636-0362

Twitter: @njKaitlinDurbin

Facebook: Kaitlin Durbin

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The Gazette's Chhun Sun contributed to this report.

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