SHERIDAN — A hail storm like the one that ripped across north Sheridan Thursday afternoon is the reason people buy insurance, according to several local insurance agents whose phones haven’t stopped ringing since golf ball-sized hail pummeled the city.
Roofs and windshields were damaged from the VA Medical Center to the North Heights neighborhood to Kmart and out onto Interstate 90 where dozens of drivers pulled onto the side of the road and hoped for the best.
Reports have ranged from broken skylights and windows to stripped siding and shredded roofs on houses and businesses in the path of the storm. Several insurance agents mentioned rear windows and windshields that were blown apart on cars parked in the Kmart parking lot.
“I’ve been doing this for 35 years, and the last time I can remember a storm like this was the summer of 1979,” State Farm Agent Bill Phillips said.
Phillips said his office has handled more than 100 hail damage claims this season. Other agents reported similar claim numbers, many with 40 or 50 claims taken during the remaining business hours after Thursday’s storm.
“There’s four agents in our office, and I already have four pages full of claims to turn in and everybody else probably has the same amount,” Tegeler and Associates Agent Leanne Moss said early Friday morning. “Everybody that lives or works on the north end of town that we insure has been calling.”
Meteorologist Marc Singer with the National Weather Service in Billings said they received numerous reports of golf ball-sized hail just after 3 p.m. Thursday.
The official measurement calculated by the weather service was 1.75 inches in diameter.
“That is huge, big time stuff,” Singer said.
A southwest flow with high lofts is a prime severe weather pattern for the Rocky Mountain region, Singer said, explaining the series of destructive storms over the last three days. Hail is created when updrafts lift water particles into deep, lofty storm clouds. The water particles churn and rotate in the cloud, freezing and growing in size until they become too big for the updrafts to support and fall back to the ground — and the gardens, houses and windshields — below.
At this point, insurance agents are encouraging anyone with hail damage to call and report it so a claim can be filed and adjusters called in to assess the damage. In fact, according to several agents, hordes of adjusters are already on their way to Sheridan to begin their work.
“It was kind of a nasty storm,” Farmers Insurance Owner/Agent Gary McCoy said. “Hail is a strange beast.”
Burns Insurance Agency Branch Manager Bob McIntyre concurred: “This is why people buy insurance; that’s what we’re here for.”
The National Weather Service is forecasting sunny skies with highs in the upper 60s and 70s for the weekend, giving area residents time to get out and show a little TLC to those battered gardens.