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July hail storm in Colorado Springs sixth-most damaging in state history

August 22, 2016 Updated: August 23, 2016 at 6:12 am
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School children walk through a southeastern neighborhood of Colorado Springs, where dozens of home are still boarded up and waiting for window replacements on Monday, August 22, 2016. A July 28 hail storm was the sixth-most damaging in Colorado history, triggering $352.8 million in claims for damage to homes, commercial buildings and vehicles, according to an insurance industry trade group. photo by Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette

The July 28 hailstorm that smashed Colorado Springs was the sixth-most damaging event in Colorado history, triggering $352.8 million in claims for damage to homes and vehicles, an insurance industry trade group said Monday.

Described as an "absolute hail bomb" by Brian Bledsoe, chief meteorologist with Gazette news partner KKTV, the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association said the storm featuring up to tennis ball-sized hail resulted in 84,500 auto and homeowner insurance claims filed so far. That includes 51,300 auto insurance claims adding up to more than $164.6 million and 33,200 property insurance claims at more than $188.2 million.

"The difference between this storm and many of the other large storms that have hit Colorado is you typically see one storm travel across the state or along the Front Range causing damage over a wide area," said Carole Walker, the association's executive director. "This storm was concentrated in the Colorado Springs area and the size of the hail resulted in a very high percentage of claims that were total losses."

Renee Larson, a semi-retired homeowner near the Colorado Springs Airport, said the storm did about $60,000 damage to her family's three vehicles as well as the roof, six windows, skylights, chimney, siding, fence and shed on or near their home. The vehicles were total losses and she hopes repairs to her home will soon be approved by her mortgage company.

"Hopefully, they will get it done before the snow flies," Larson said. "You want to scream and throw your hands up, but it is Mother Nature, just like the floods in Louisiana. We are fortunate it is going as smoothly as it is. At least we are in the process of our claim. Some people I know might have to wait months to see an adjuster."

The estimated damage amount is preliminary and doesn't include any damage to commercial property such as vehicles of dealer lots or office buildings and hotels, or public property, including at least $500,000 in damage at the Colorado Springs Airport and about 40 Colorado Springs police cars as well as damages at Peterson Air Force Base. The total cost of the storm likely will increase as repairs are completed to roofs, siding and windows damaged by the storm that could take months to complete, Walker said.

"This is yet another reminder from Mother Nature of why Colorado is now ranked second in the nation for hail insurance claims," Walker said. "The size and amount of hail that battered Colorado Springs is, unfortunately, part of a pattern of catastrophic events the state has been experiencing during the past several years, so we need to be financially prepared for the unexpected."

The monetary damage of the storm ranks behind three hail storms, the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires, the association reported. The storms ahead of it are:

- A July 20, 2009, Denver area hail storm that caused $767.6 million in damages;

- A July 11, 1990, hail storm that caused $625 million in damages statewide;

- The June 2012 Waldo Canyon fire, which resulted in $453.7 million in claims;

- The June 2013 Black Forest fire, which resulted in $420.5 million in claims;

- A series of storms from June 6-15, 2009, in the Denver area with tornado and hail damage totaling $353.3 million.

When adjusted for inflation, the storm ranks as the eighth-worst in the state's history.

Colorado ranked behind Texas in hail claims from 2013-15 with 182,591 claims, according to a National Insurance Crime Bureau report in May. Nationwide, there were 5,412 major hail storms last year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Severe Storms database.

Claims related to wind and hail damage accounted for nearly 40 percent of all insured losses during the past five years, averaging about $15 billion annually, the association said. The July 28 storm was the first catastrophic loss of the year in Colorado, which the association defines as insured damage of $25 million or more (flood damage is not included because it isn't covered by most homeowner's insurance policies).

Many of the state's top insurers, including USAA and State Farm, opened mobile locations along Powers Boulevard and elsewhere in eastern Colorado Springs to handle the large number of vehicle claims. Some body shops reported backlogs of work through December and the wait for getting roof or siding work could be even longer.

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Contact Wayne Heilman: 636-0234

Twitter @wayneheilman

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