Reporting by Bud Gillett, Andrea Lucia, Jeff Ray, Jay Gormley, Jack Fink, Robbie Owens and Ginger Allen:
DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Homeowners in pockets east of U.S. 75 watched as their homes and vehicles were bombarded with tennis and baseball sized hail Wednesday evening. By the time the storm passed, it was nightfall, nearly 10 p.m.
When the sun rose on Thursday, it further illuminated the busted windshields, deeply dented hoods, shattered home windows and obliterated tile roofs that remained long after the ice chunks pooled into water.
The four super cells dumped hail in cities as far northwest as The Colony and as far south as Ferris. Early damage estimates anticipate claims to surpass $500 million, said Sandra Helin, spokeswoman for the Southwest Insurance Information System, a nonprofit that assesses damage claims at insurance companies in Texas and Oklahoma.
Helin said she wouldn’t be surprised if that number exceeded $1 billion –– she said Wednesday’s hail storm will “easily” surpass damage claims from April 3, when 17 tornadoes tore through North Texas.
Of Wednesday’s entire storm, the East Dallas and Lakewood areas reported the most severe damage.
Around Swiss Ave., a community punctuated by homes built in the early 1900s, blue tarps are the prevailing sight. Roofers began early Thursday, draping the royal blues over the hail-shot homes.
“We have lived through hail storms before. We have lived here 13 years and this is the worst storm I’ve ever seen,” said Rachel Rose, a homeowner. “Our house has glass in every room. We were kind of huddled in the hallway and just listened to the glass break.”
Rose’s glass table and windows were all shattered. It punctured the home’s original concrete roof, which Rose said dates dates back to 1929.
The hail was indiscriminate: Outside many of these homes are Porsche and Mercedes automobiles. And many of those took a beating; their hoods and windshields were claimed by plummeting ice.
Homeowners described finding baseball-sized chunks after the storm, which explains why it was so loud inside their homes.
“It was like about a hundred people with baseball bats up on the roof, just beating around on it,” said homeowner Tim Howells.
There were “very violent knocks on the roof and then I started hearing glass break,” echoed homeowner Bob Cox. “And I looked outside and they were the size of Dixie cups, the hail stones.”
As the hailstorm began its descent, the glass elephant in the East Dallas-sized room was at the Dallas Arboretum. Hail-damaged vegetation can grow back, but famed glass sculptor Dale Chihuly’s long anticipated 27-piece exhibit can’t.
As such, it was with great trepidation that gardeners and managers pored over the grounds Thursday.
But to everyone’s relief, damage was minimal. The only sign of the vicious hail storm’s effect on the Chihuly exhibit was a few pieces of just one structure, the “Persian Pond.” Bare metal stems now show where the broken glass pieces should go.
“From about thirty pieces, only the six suffered damage,” said Wendy Rentz, an Arboretum spokeswoman. “They’re very durable sculptures. These (Persian Pond) are a lot more delicate than the other pieces … they’re not hail-resistant.”
The Arboretum has packed away the broken pieces and will send them back to the artist’s studio in Seattle. Rentz is assured they can all be put back together.
She also said vegetation and trees were unharmed –– the rain actually perked them up. Visitors who were worried about the damage were glad they made the trek Thursday.
“I saw on the news it was very minimal so I said, ‘We’re still on to go,’” said Connie Sagor, a Plano resident. “It’s just fabulous; just fabulous.”
Compared to other commercial objects, the Arboretum got off easy.
Before the storm, the Lakewood Theater marquee advertised a showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. After it, the art deco theate, which dates to 1938, had half its marquee lying in the street below.
The theater’s magnificent tower was literally stripped of its glass and neon pride as hail pelted the iconic landmark.
“The tower got completely devestated,” said Aubrey Suffron, the theater’s co-owner. “It doesn’t look like it, because it doesn’t look any different, but all the lights inside and the neon is just gone.”
She says it will take weeks, at least, until the beacon once again lights up the neighborhood. Inside, however, the shows will go on.
“Like I say, you can knock us around, but you can’t knock us out,” Suffron said.
About a half mile away at the Lakewood Country Club, the falling ice blobs caused minimal damage –– however, golf-ball sized divots are just about everywhere.
“It destroyed all the pool furniture, all the tennis furniture, all of the skylights were blown out, but I think it’s something we can recover from quickly,” said general manager Ray Detullio.
The course is unplayable, however. And it couldn’t have come at a worse time: Dozens of golfers are in town to compete for the Texas Amateur Championship.
Not long before the storm reached Lakewood, hail shot through the skylights at NorthPark Center, leaving a mess of ice, glass and water inside on the mall’s floor. Workers cleaned it up, though, and the shopping mecca opened at its normal time Thursday.
The holes in the skylights were hurriedly patched before the mall opened its doors at 10 a.m. One shopper who witnessed the storm from inside NorthPark painted a harrowing picture.
“I’ve never seen hail coe through that big through the ceiling,” said Jasmine Sargent, gesturing Thursday to describe the previous day’s pelting hail. “I thought there was, like, a tornado. Because whenever I see hail and strong winds like that, there’s usually a tornado in the midst.”
Lakewood commercial property owner Cathy Patterson spent the morning walking her buildings. She said she was astounded by the damage left in the storm’s wake.
“This is the worst I’ve ever seen,” she said. “I’ve lived in Dallas for 40 years.”
One of her tenants can’t open for business until she clears the roof of the damaged tile. But she can’t clear the roof until the insurance adjuster arrives –– and they’re pretty slammed, we’re told.
“This morning, I can tell you we have about 120 voicemails not even answered yet,” said Leonardo Montero, owner of the windshield repair company Scorpio Autoglass.
The company has an A- rating with the Better Business Bureau and has been around for more than 15 years.
Lakewood resident Jason Summers enlisted the company’s help –– damage to his vehicles was so severe he couldn’t get out of his driveway.
“What are you going to do? You can’t drive anywhere with missing windshields or spider-webbed windshields,” he said. “But nothing too bad happened. I wasn’t in the car and it’s just the way it goes; that’s what I got insurance for.”
Unpredictably, roofing and glass company trucks and signs dot the community. From the air, it’s a sea of those royal blue tarps. Mitchell Ward and his coworker are one of the reasons for that; they say they’ve been to 100 houses in just a day.
“Get out, knock on the doors, if they don’t answer the doors, leave a card, keep going, work all day long,” Ward said matter-of-factly.
For those with damage, Better Business Bureau spokeswoman Jeannette Kopko says to be cautious of contractors who don’t provide a permanent address. Look out for scare tactics and high pressure and ask the company if they offer a guarantee.
“What they might do is do shoddy work and charge you more than normal, and then they may not be there when you try to get the warranty on it,” Kopko said.
It may take weeks until adjusters get a better idea of a dollar amount of damages due to the hailstorm.