By David E. Hubler
Contributor, EDM Digest
Southeastern Colorado, which has been plagued by wildfires since the beginning of the month, was dealt another blow from nature early Wednesday morning.
A major hailstorm struck Fountain, Fort Carson and other areas near Colorado Springs overnight. With hailstones as large as three inches in diameter, the storm damaged many cars and roofs.
There were no reported injuries. However, personal property damages could reach several million dollars.
Hailstorm Causes Power Outage
According to the National Weather Service, El Paso County hasn't seen hail this large in the morning hours since 1995, KRDO-TV in Colorado Springs reported. “The hail first started coming down around 1 a.m. Wednesday. Some of the worst damage was seen throughout the Fountain and Security/Widefield areas,” the station said.
One viewer told the station that the storm was most intense from 2:15 to almost 3 a.m. “Sounded like a baseball team surrounded the house and beat it with bats for almost an hour,” she said. “The power was out everywhere, so the hailstorm coupled with lightning and thunder made it more intense. When the storm eased up some, I heard a couple of transmitters blow out. The fact that all of this happened in the middle of the night had to be terrifying for children.”
NWS Reports Damage near Colorado Springs and Black Forest
According to the Colorado Springs Gazette, the National Weather Service (NWS) reported hail up to an inch in diameter near the Air Force Academy near Colorado Springs and Black Forest.
"It was a historic event, considering the time of day," NWS meteorologist Steve Hodanish told the newspaper. "It was a lot of damage. This will be a rather expensive event."
Last Major Colorado Hailstorm Caused over $350 Million in Damages
The last major hailstorm occurred on July 28, 2016. “That storm smashed roofs, broke windows, punched holes in siding and left thousands of cars with dents resembling golf balls,” Hodanish recalled.
That storm was the sixth-most damaging in Colorado’s history, triggering $352.8 million in insurance claims, according to an estimate by the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association (RMIIA).
Insurance Companies Deluged with Claims from Wednesday’s Hailstorm
Insurance giant USAA, which covers mostly active and retired military families, said it had received more than 4,000 claims by 11 a.m. Wednesday. Farmers Insurance said it had received 700 claims by 2 p.m.
An RMIIA spokeswoman said the insurance industry would have an estimate of the damage and total for all claims in about a week. In the last 10 years, hailstorms have caused more than $3 billion in insured damage in Colorado.
State Farm Offers Tips for Hailstorm Safety
The State Farm insurance Company website offers four tips to staying safe and minimizing damage in a hailstorm:
#1: Make a Plan
Prepare your family for the hazards and inconveniences of a hailstorm by creating a disaster preparedness plan, including a disaster survival kit and an emergency evacuation plan.
#2: Stay Informed
Hail often occurs during severe weather patterns, such as strong thunderstorms. When severe weather threatens, tune in to a battery-powered radio or a hand-cranked NOAA weather radio for updates.
#3: Move Inside, Stay Inside
As a storm approaches, put vehicles in the garage and bring pets inside. If you are outdoors, go indoors immediately.
Once you are indoors, close all drapes, blinds or shades to prevent broken window glass and hailstones from entering your home. If possible, move to a basement, cellar or other level of the building not directly below the roof. Stay indoors until the storm has passed.
If you're on the road during a hailstorm, stay in your vehicle and slow down or stop, as roads may become slippery. Once you have pulled over safely, turn your back to windows or cover yourself with a blanket to protect yourself from broken glass.
#4: Protect Your Roof
Roof damage is a common consequence of hailstorms. Following a strong storm, you should evaluate the condition of your roof to identify any damage and prevent further deterioration.
The Federal Alliance of Safe Homes (FLASH) website also has information about strengthening roofs, decking and shingles against hail and other severe weather.
More Damage Likely during Hail Season
Colorado's damaging hail season usually runs from mid-April to mid-September. Colorado's Front Range area receives the highest frequency of large hail in North America and most of the world. So residents usually can count on three or four catastrophic (defined as at least $25 million in insured damage) hailstorms every year.