What Building Owners Learned from Colorado’s Costliest Hailstorm
It was a typical Spring day in Colorado as I arrived for work on the morning of May 8, 2017. The promising forecast of a mild 70-degree day camouflaged the ensuing hailstorm that battered the Denver metro area. In the late afternoon, enveloped by dark, ominous skies, I heard the hail falling outside my office window as Twitter and Instagram erupted with ground reports. I began targeting the reports on a map and in no time, the pattern of potential damage and exposure was apparent. Like many buildings in our immediate area, Pie’s Arvada office was spared the worst of the event, but our team quickly knew how damaging the storm was elsewhere. In the aftermath, building owners and insurance companies soon began calling to request assistance in assessing the hail damage to their properties, and developing remediation plans.
An insurance carrier for a large business park in Lakewood was one of the first to call our Pie office. Extensive damage to their buildings required evaluation and repairs. We mobilized immediately, identified the extent of damage, and created a repair scope of work. Several other commercial buildings also sustained major roof damage including the Colorado Mills Mall. There, the hail that punctured the roof was followed by six days of rain that flooded the interior and forced the mall to close. The damage resulted in a multimillion-dollar repair bill including a costly temporary roof prior to a permanent solution. I can’t help but presume that if the roof was properly designed to resist impact and puncture, a large part of that loss could have been avoided.
The monster weather event left devastation in its wake as golf ball- to baseball-sized hailstones caused upwards of $1.4 billion in damage, entering the record books as the costliest hailstorm in Colorado history. Several cities including Arvada, Golden, Lakewood, and Wheat Ridge were affected by the storm that reached as far north as the I-25 and I-76 interchange. A reported 200,000 home and auto insurance claims were filed as a result.
Lessons from the Storm
While some buildings in the Denver metro area survived the big storm of 2017 with minimal damage, many did not. The owners of the latter, and those in the design and construction industries, learned several valuable lessons from the storm regarding future preparation. For instance, the roofing materials selected for a building must have the proper UL 2218 class impact resistance based on the potential for hail damage in an area. However, this does not always guarantee there won’t be a claim. Designers must know how to incorporate roofing systems that can provide impact resistance for protection from large hail. In addition, contractors must have expertise in the proper installation of the impact-resistant materials they are using. It’s also important to consider the age and condition of roofing materials and how impact resistant they are. Not always, but even highly rated materials may degrade over time. While roofing materials of a particular rating can prevent penetration by hail of a specific size, and consequently prevent catastrophic losses from water intrusion, that doesn’t mean the materials will be undamaged after a major storm. An insurance claim and replacement of the materials may still be necessary.
As seems to be typical of our current weather patterns, this storm was particularly violent, so building owners immediately knew they should get an inspection. However, any significant hailstorm has the potential to cause damage, so a post-storm assessment is typically prudent even if you think you dodged the worst of an event. Whether for a new project or a re-roof, understanding the damaging effects of hail, the available pre-emptive measures that can be taken, and working with a qualified roofing consultant like Pie, is a valuable means for getting ahead of the next storm.
General Hailstorm Statistics
Most people have experienced either the direct or indirect impacts of a hailstorm event. Understanding the facts is one way to aid in proactively preparing for future storms. For instance, the National Weather Service receives approximately 10,000 to 12,000 hail reports annually. According to a 2016 insurance industry report, from 2013-2015 Colorado had the second highest number of hail-related insurance claims in the U.S. The state’s total of 182,591 was second only to Texas. Hail damage is also a function of the number and intensity of hailstorms and the population density where they take place. Colorado is among the leaders in damage each year because the storms here tend to occur over the densely populated Denver metro area. So, in summary, there is more hail in Colorado’s forecast. Planning proactively for future events is an effective means for weathering the storm. Pie can help.