SIOUX CITY | A severe June 30 hail storm that dinged most of metro Sioux City also heated up certain sectors of the local economy and drew the interest of numerous outside contractors.
Phones rang off the hook at area auto body shops, insurance agencies, roofing companies and other auxiliary businesses that benefit from the storm's aftermath.
There were reports of golf ball size or larger hail in some Sioux City neighborhoods. The storm left behind piles of the frozen rain pellets large enough to resemble a light snowfall in the middle of summer in areas.
Charese Yanney, owner and managing partner of Sioux City-based Guarantee Roofing, Siding and Insulation Co., said the hail storm may have been the most widespread since a June 1978 that pelted nearly the entire metro area with pellets as large as softballs.
The late June 30 storm was nearly as widespread, sparing only portions of the northside and Riverside neighborhoods, she said. It came on the heels of earlier hail storms this summer that caused widespread damage in cities to the north such as Hinton, Iowa, Akron, Iowa and Elk Point, South Dakota.
In the aftermath, Guarantee Roofing and other roofing crews with more work than they can handle in the near future.
"I'm guessing we'll be busy for a couple years," Yanney said Friday. "You're trying to serve a lot of people, but it's hard because you just can't get to everybody at the same time."
Rick Quintana, general manager of ABRA Auto Body & Glass in Sioux City, said he can’t recall seeing such an influx of customers after a storm and he’s been involved in the business since the late ’90s.
“It’s been kind of nuts around here lately,” he said. “We’re a pretty high volume production shop — probably, if not the biggest, one of the biggest in the area — and we stay steady all the time.
“We’ve got a lot of great relationships with our insurance partners, but when something like this happens it completely turns your whole company upside down with the volume of work that comes in from it.”
Roughly, Quintana thinks the hail storm has quadrupled his business and he expects to see upwards of 1,000 vehicles before it’s all said and done.
Local insurance firms also have been overwhelmed by a ton of post-storm calls from clients.
Kendra Hoffman and Brock DeVries are insurance agents with the Farm Bureau Financial Services office in Morningside.
DeVries said they’ve been filing a lot of residential and vehicular claims.
"The low number is 150,” said DeVries when asked how many claims he thinks he has written since the storm occurred. “That’s a low number though. I didn’t keep track of them — it’s tough to keep track.”
Hoffman noted they still have clients who are still waiting on an adjuster to stop and assess damages.
She knows the process can be frustrating for those on the waiting list, but she and DeVries said the fallout from this storm is not typical.
“We appreciate the patience of the members and the clients while we work through this,” she said. “We are here for you, we will get through this, we’ll return your calls — it’s just been a lot of extra work.”
Because of the widespread damage in the region, Yanney noted that many insurers are giving policy holders up to two years to file claims, far longer than under normal conditions.
Yanney, whose family business was founded by her grandfather in 1926, said most of the roofs she and her crews have examined will be fine until they can be replaced, even if it takes two years.
"It's not like they're going to leak tomorrow or the next year or the following year," she said. "
John Cain is the owner of JC Roofing & Insulating, a family-owned South Sioux City-based commercial and residential roofing company that’s served the area for a little more than three decades.
Like other local businesses, Cain has been busier than normal since June 30.
“We’re swamped; it’s crazy,” he said. “We’ve got appointments out for a couple months and we’re probably two weeks down from probably being able to even look at a roof right now, but it’s great.”
Cain said since the storm, his office receives 20-30 calls a day.
“I hate to see it happen, but it’s good for business,” he said.
While the storm has provided a boom for local businesses, local roofers like Cain and Yanney are concerned by the amount of “fly-by-night” companies that have popped up in the area offering cheaper services to impacted homeowners.
“That’s just the way it is. People come in here, they tell you they're local and they're going to be gone in a few months,” Cain said. “Soon as winter gets here they are going to be gone.
“Next year, everybody is going to be wondering where the heck they are if they got a problem. They can guarantee you the world, but if they aren’t here to back it up what the hell are you going to do?”
In the industry, these types of roofing contractors are called “storm chasers” or “roofing gypsies” because they swarm into an area after a calamity and promise cheaper and faster solutions that may not always be beneficial in the long run for homeowners.
According to Angie’s List, a popular online contractor referral service, storm chasers often do shoddy work, lack proper licensing and insurance and quickly move on to the next storm afflicted community.
Cain is keenly aware of this practice, but until this recent storm, he hasn’t seen it as much in Sioux City.
“We’ve had storms before and I’ve seen storm chasers come into town, but never seen the level that there are this time,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s just not any work anywhere or what it is, but I’ve seen dozens of roofers I’ve never heard of in town.”
With so many people still waiting on estimates or work to commence on their roof, Cain advises locals to be patient, do their research and look for familiar names when choosing their roofer.
Quintana is staffing his auto body shop and office with about a dozen workers to better accommodate customers. Appointments are filled for the next six months, he said.
“I’ve been in this business and in Sioux City for many, many years and I don’t remember one (storm) in recent history that was even remotely close to this,” he said. “We kind of yearn for the weather in our business — icy roads, hail, wind, tree damage, you know stuff like that.
“...I hate to capitalize on somebody’s misfortune — kind of like going to the doctor’s office, we’re here if you need us — but, man, this one has just really been incredible as far as the volume and amount of work it’s creating for not (just) us, but the whole industry in our market.”