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‘Utter chaos’

Auto body shops, roofing contractors deal with hail storm aftermath

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Troy Waller, owner of Troy Waller Auto Body, has been the business’s “chaos coordinator” over the past couple of days as hundreds of local car owners have been calling in about hail damage sustained over the weekend.

The last few days have been “utter chaos” for Troy Waller, who owns Troy Waller Auto Body, 508 S. 32nd St.

Since a sudden hail storm hit the Fort Dodge area on Saturday afternoon, Waller has been fielding hundreds of phone calls and walk-ins of local car owners concerned about the damage done to their vehicles.

According to the National Weather Service, hail ranging in size from quarters to golf balls rained down across Fort Dodge on Saturday afternoon, pelting cars and homes across the city.

First thing on Monday morning, the phones at Troy Waller Auto Body began ringing off the hook. Throughout the day, 263 local car owners had either called or stopped in the shop to schedule a damage estimate for their vehicles. On Tuesday, the chorus of phone ringing continued.

Waller said that in his time running his auto body shop, he’s never seen a hail storm cause this much broad damage. He said he’s used to dealing with a small town or a neighborhood getting hit, but this was something totally new.

“To get hit on a Saturday, during the day, there was no warning on it and it wasn’t forecast, so everybody was out and about,” Waller said. “It was like a perfect storm.”

Waller said the damage he’s seeing to vehicles is “very severe.” While some repairs will be done using a paintless dent repair method, many will need to be done with conventional repairs.

“That’s where it gets tricky because you’ve got to fix and replace panels,” he said.

Of the preliminary estimates Waller and his staff have done this week, the damage is averaging around $9,000 per vehicle.

While car owners have an array of auto body repair options to look into – including other local shops and even some out of town or out of state mobile repair services – Waller encourages customers to use someone local.

Waller partners with Dentsmart, of Waterloo, to do the paintless dent repairs, while his staff does the more complex conventional repairs.

“You get a warranty from Dentsmart, you get a warranty from me,” he said. “That’s the main reason you want to stick with someone local.”

Vehicles weren’t the only property damaged from Saturday’s hail storm.

Robert Maddox, owner of Hahn Roofing, has received 300 or 400 calls from homeowners concerned about damage to their homes’ roofs.

“If it damaged your car, it damaged your roof,” he said.

However, he said, homeowners don’t need to make any rush to get repairs or replacements done just yet.

“This hail is a little unique,” Maddox said. “It’s not big enough that the untrained eye can go up there and look and see it, but it is there.”

He said that when the hailstone hits the granules of the shingle, it imbeds in the asphalt. During subsequent rains, it will continue to wash away at that spot and it will become evident.

“Your roof has hail damage, but it might take a while to show up,” Maddox said. “Many times, roofs that are inspected too soon have damage, but it’s overlooked.”

He recommends homeowners call their insurance companies, but ask that they not do an inspection of the roof for a few weeks, until the damage becomes more evident.

“I believe, based on what we’ve looked at so far, about 70% of Fort Dodge will get a new roof,” Maddox said.

Maddox, along with Ryan Smith, president of Kingsgate Insurance, warn customers of roof repair scams and dishonest practices that some out-of-area contractors may approach homeowners with.

“If your home was impacted by the severe weather that struck Fort Dodge over the weekend and you are in need of repairs to your home, I would recommend working with local, reputable contractors,” Smith said. “You should also ask the contractor that you’re working with if they will be self-performing the work on your home or hiring subcontractors.”

Maddox recommends looking very closely at any contract a homeowner is asked to sign, and to make sure that the exact cost of the repairs or replacement is written in the contract. Some homeowners might be asked to sign a contract with a roofer where the contract doesn’t specify the cost of the project, or the roofer claims they’ll do the work for whatever the insurance coverage is without specifying a price.

This leaves homeowners vulnerable because their insurance company could give an estimate of $10,000, but once the roofer finishes the project and submits the final invoice, the cost could be much higher than the insurance estimate, Maddox said.

“Shop local for the services after the sale,” Maddox added. “Warranty is very important.”

Smith noted that residents don’t need to rush their decision on roofing repairs or replacement as most properties damaged by this storm “are not at risk of further damage if repairs are not immediate.”

Maddox agreed.

“Most people just need to be patient,” he said. “I don’t think any of these roofs – unless it’s a very old roof – but I think in most cases this hail is not going to cause roof leaks. It’s going to cause premature shingle life.”

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