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May 2—Local business owners are beginning a recovery process that could take months after a severe thunderstorm dropped baseball-sized hail on Norman Wednesday, causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.
Winds exceeding 70 MPH and hail up to the size of baseballs hit Norman just before 9 p.m. Wednesday, resulting in damage to cars, buildings and windows. Now business owners are dealing with insurance claims and assessing damage after one of the more costly storms in the city's history.
Rebecca Bean, owner of STASH on Main Street, said she arrived at her store to find six broken windows.
"We feel pretty fortunate that it wasn't worse than that," Bean said. "We were spared from flooding and injury, and all of our merchandise was spared."
STASH was closed all day Thursday while exterior windows were worked on and glass and ceiling debris was cleaned up.
In an AccuWeather report, senior vice president and chief meteorologist Jonathan Porter said while tornadoes garner more news coverage, hailstorms produce the most damage resulting in insurance claims when compared with any other type of severe storm.
Porter said the April 28 storm, which hit three major metropolitan areas in Ft. Worth, San Antonio and Norman, easily exceeded $1 billion dollars in damages.
"The total damage and economic loss caused by Wednesday night's hail storms are predicted to be about $3.5 billion," Porter said in the report.
Jonathan Fowler, president of Fowler Holding Company, said he had extensive damage at his dealerships. As soon as the storm passed through Norman, he was surveying damage at the lots, he said.
"The Toyota store might have fared a little bit better in terms of damage, but I don't know that I would say it was better — from my point of view, it was all bad," Fowler said. "This is some of the more severe damage that I've seen in my tenure and career."
Fowler said the end of his week consisted of working with manufacturers and insurance companies, and trying to make sure his dealerships have the inventory they need to sell.
"Cars are on sale right now, so we had camera crews getting some footage so that we are able to make sure that we've got it available for customers to see," Fowler said.
Rebekah Collins, Realtor with Aria Real Estate, said several commercial buildings the company manages have sustained extensive damage to windows, skylights, roofs, gutters and lights.
On the residential side, Collins said homes Aria manages and homes of employees and agents saw significant damage as well.
"[Thursday] has been a crazy day," Collins said.
Collins said she and her team have been busy working on behalf of commercial property owners to get quotes from necessary vendors and timeframes on repairs.
She said she is in the process of working with out-of-state residential property owners to help facilitate bids, quotes and filing with insurance companies.
During a period when houses both for purchase and rent are in high demand, Collins said weather events like this complicate the process of renting, building and selling.
"If you're under contract and you've had your inspections done [and] this comes through, now you have to have your inspector go back out and re-inspect the roof for damage and make sure the property is fine," Collins said.
Collins said history shows events like this can significantly lengthen the timeframe it takes to get a property ready to rent or sell.
"Roofers and construction businesses plan and prepare for this, and they work well with realtors, property management and all of us in the real estate industry to help us get where we need to be so clients can file insurance claims and do what they need to do," Collins said.
Collins said that while construction and roofing professionals understand how to work efficiently, the process of reaching full recovery from the storm will be slow. She had one vendor reach out Thursday to let her know windows and other building supplies are already on backorder, she said.
"[Some supplies] were already slow to get here due to demand, and now it's going to take that much longer," Collins said.
Jeff Elkins covers business, living and community stories for The Transcript. Reach him at Jelkins@normantranscript.com or at @JeffElkins12 on Twitter.