CARTHAGE, Mo. — Months after the worst hail storm to hit Carthage in decades, cleanup is still in full swing. Even as insurance companies finish processing most claims, the demand for repairs is straining local roofers and body shops, who have hired additional help to keep up.
Hail the size of golf balls slammed the town in the middle of the night on May 28, damaging cars, homes and public buildings. The storm destroyed vehicles and historic property at the 66 Drive-In movie theater, knocked out neon lights at the Boots Court Motel, wrecked the roofs of the county courthouse and the Over 60 Center, and forced the golf course to close while crews patched pockmarked greens.
The city of Carthage plans to replace the roofs on more than 30 city-owned buildings, and officials granted permits for work on 300 roofs in July alone. By contrast, only 25 roofing permits were issued during July 2016.
Insurance agencies in the area have hired extra insurance adjusters to process additional claims.
“It’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen,” said Ezra Cook, an agent for Farmers Insurance in Carthage, of the storm damage.
American Family Insurance, which holds about one-eighth of the Southwest Missouri market for all types of insurance, has already processed over 2,000 claims for the hail storm alone, many of them in Carthage. The damage to homes, cars and businesses insured by the company amounted to at least $2 million, according to insurance agent Bob Brown, who estimates that the total damage to the area will be eight times that.
Payments have already been made in most cases, said Brown, who works at the American Family branch in Carthage.
But many home and vehicle owners are still waiting for repairs as local roofers and body shops dig out from beneath the caseload.
“There’s just too much for the contractors and body shops to handle,” Brown said. “Everyone is working feverishly, but they’re booked out until December.”
Even with several crews patching up to six roofs per week, one Carthage contractor said he expects to continue working on hail damage in the area through the end of the year.
“The only thing I’ve seen like this storm, in terms of the workload, is the Joplin tornado,” said Allan Welch, owner of Honest Help Contracting and Remodeling, Inc.
“Jiminy Christmas. Usually I’m (scheduled) two to three weeks out, but now I’m two to three months out," said Wes Probert, owner of Probert Auto Body in Carthage. “I had to hire two more people.”
While the storm may provide a boost to local contractors, it will cut into into the bottom lines of national businesses still smarting from hail-related losses in 2016. Large insurance companies and auto dealers were hurt by higher-than-average hail damage last year, especially in Texas. Roughly $3.5 billion in hail damage was reported, up from an annual average of $1 billion.
For Missouri and neighboring states, this has been a particularly bad year for hail damage. Apart from Texas — which regularly faces the worst hail damage in the nation — Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri have seen more reports of hail than any other states.
Rachel Stump, of the 1000 block of West Chestnut Street, said 2.5-inch hailstones damaged her roof and car. Her fiancee, hoping to save money, plans to use their insurance check to fix the roof himself, but Stump took her car to the shop for $8,500 in repairs to the windshield, mirrors and body.
“It was in the shop for three weeks, that’s how backed up they were,” she said.