Stormy summer means high demand for roofers, insurance agents, adjusters — Money



Hustad Company roofers shingle one of the roofs of an apartment complex in Grand Island on Sept. 24, 2014.

Posted: Thursday, September 25, 2014 11:25 am

An active storm year has kept roofing contractors, insurance agents and adjusters, and Grand Island officials busy over the summer issuing permits, making estimates and repairing hail-damaged roofs and cars.

In June, there was a period of severe weather between June 19 through 22, especially June 21, when a strong thunderstorm accompanied by large hail damaged vehicles and buildings throughout Grand Island, especially in the northwest part of town.

According to the city of Grand Island, in August, the city issued 484 miscellaneous building permits for a value of $4.144 million. That’s the building permit category that includes roof repairs. That compares to August 2013, when 53 miscellaneous building permits were issued by the city for a value of $266,736.

There was also an increase in miscellaneous building permits in July, with 246 permits issued by the city for a value of $1.884 million. That compares to July 2013, when 43 miscellaneous building permits were issued for a value of $544,000.

Craig Lewis, the city’s building department director since 1990, said his office has been busy issuing roofing permits to contractors as the result of the storm damage.

Building permits are required when a homeowner requires major roof repairs, Lewis said.

As city building department director, he said, he has seen years, such as this year, when hailstorms have caused damage to a lot of homes, businesses and buildings throughout the community.

“We never like to see it, but it is not unusual,” he said.

Lewis remembers in the early 1990s when a severe hailstorm hit Grand Island and his office issued hundreds of permits to repair storm-damaged roofs.

Lewis estimates that his office typically may receive “a hundred or so” roofing permits during a year. “Now we may have 100 within a week,” he said.

“A lot of local roofers from Grand Island are saying that they are tremendously busy,” he said. “A lot of them right now are saying they can’t take any more work because they can’t get to them until the spring. The local guys are just extremely busy and are bringing in out-of-town contractors as well.”

Shane Arends of BAC Roofing of Grand Island said his business will “probably do more than twice the number of roofs this year as we normally do due to the hail damage in this area.”

Arends said the heavier hail damage from the June 21 storm was in northwest Grand Island, but hail damage was widespread.

“It is all over town,” he said.

Arends is one of seven salespeople who work for BAC Roofing. He said he has sold about 100 roofing jobs. Also, BAC has doubled its staff because of the influx of storm damage repairs coming into their office.

“We are all overwhelmed,” he said. “We can’t remember from one day to the next on who you talked to or who you haven’t.”

Last year, Arends said, the roofing business was slow nationwide.

BAC Roofing is a family-owned business and Arends has been working in the family business for about 10 years. He said last year was the first year BAC Roofing had seen no growth in the 20 years it has been in business. Earlier this year, Arends attended a national convention where weather officials predicted an active storm year this year. That trend is expected to continue for the next 10 years.

He said this year has proven to be an active weather year throughout the United States as weather officials had predicted. And it has kept roofing contractors busy.

“All the roofers are busy everywhere,” he said. “It is totally off the charts. There are people here working who are from throughout the United States.”

Another problem faced by contractors, Arends said, is the hail damage to siding and garage doors. While an experienced crew can replace a hail-damaged roof in a day, replacing hail-damaged siding or a garage door takes several days to a week for an experienced crew.

“It is easy to find roofing crews, but the dynamics of finding a siding crew are a lot harder as there are not as many of them,” Arends said.

He estimates that more than 5,000 buildings may have received some form of hail damage in Grand Island during the summer storm season. The city of Grand Island said there are 20,157 housing units as of the beginning of August within Grand Island’s city limits.

Hailstorms have also damaged thousands of cars in Grand Island and thousands of acres of cropland around the Grand Island area received some form of hail damage during the growing season. Some of the storms hit well past the date farmers could safely replant and those fields may have seen dramatically reduced yields or were declared a total loss. That loss of crop is especially concerning considering the lower price corn is bringing this harvest season and the continuing high price of inputs needed to grow the crop.

“It is just overwhelming,” Arends said. “We are doing eight or nine roofs every day, six days a week.”

Doug Hahn of Allstate Insurance in Grand Island said once a customer notifies his insurance office of hail damage, he has a roofing contractor examine the roof to see if there is enough damage to warrant a claim.

Hahn said his office had about seven or eight adjusters working on roof damage claims during the summer.

He also said it has been a busier than normal year, including a large amount of hail damage to vehicles.

“Everybody has been hit by this,” Hahn said. “It wasn’t just Allstate. When you think about it, rates are going up across the board with all insurance companies for one reason — for the last 10 years there has been a lot of hail.”

The National Climatic Data Center said that between 1980 and 2013, the U.S. has sustained 170 weather/climate disasters where overall damages/costs reached or exceeded $1 billion (including CPI adjustment to 2013). The total cost of these 170 events exceeds $1 trillion.

Hahn said one can see how that weather-related damage can mount up quickly from a few major storms in Grand Island, considering the cost of roof repairs can range from $7,000 to $12,000 per house.

“It has been well above average this year,” he said about the amount of storm damage that hit the Grand Island community. “There have been a lot of hail claims since 2008, but not as widespread as we have seen this year.”

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