Hailstorm leaves icy mark on city’s vehicles and roofs

Kelsey Mitchell was watching television in a third-floor bedroom of her apartment house Sunday night when hail started pounding the roof above her, sending a 2-inch ball of ice crashing through the skylight down onto her floor.

“It sounded like 30-pound bowling balls were coming down,” the Kansas University senior from Eden Prairie, Minn., said Monday as she recalled the storm that struck Lawrence about 10 p.m. Sunday, causing damage to roofs and vehicles in scattered neighborhoods throughout the city.

In another room on the second floor of Mitchell’s apartment house in the 1100 block of Ohio Street, an even more bizarre scene occurred when marble-size hail began pouring out of the fireplace.

“We all went to the basement,” Mitchell said of herself and other KU students who live in the house.

Businesses swamped

For the second time in less than two months, Lawrence insurance companies, glass businesses and other firms usually contacted after damage-causing storms were swamped with customer calls and visits Monday.

“It’s been crazy, but not as bad as the March microburst,” said Denise Lacy, insurance claims manager at Charlton Manley, 211 E. Eighth St.

Most of the claims involved damage to roofs and vehicles, Lacy said. Many were filed by people who also had damage from the microburst.

“These poor folks just can’t get a break,” she said.

Arizona Trading Co., 736 Mass., was still waiting on repairs to roof damage from the microburst when hail tore through the tarp on the roof.

“We came in last night, and it was raining in the first 20 feet of the store,” manager Corey Sievers said. “We pushed merchandise out of the way, but some of it was damaged anyway.”

On Monday morning the merchandise was pushed back in place only to be hit with another rainstorm, Sievers said.

“It’s not too good for business,” Sievers said, while above him workers were installing a temporary roof he hoped would hold until permanent repairs can be made.

The hail that fell in Lawrence varied from the size of marbles to baseballs, according to calls and photographs received by the Journal-World.

Some car dealerships weren’t spared. More than 60 vehicles were damaged at Auto Exchange, 1225 E. 23rd St., a representative said.

“This is the worst storm we’ve had in the five years I’ve been here,” owner Will Cokeley said.

Hail caused damage to nearly 30 vehicles belonging to various Douglas County government departments, most of them used by the sheriff’s office and public works, a spokeswoman said. The city of Lawrence found damage to a number of vehicles, including those used by police and fire and medical personnel, but an exact number or damage estimate hadn’t been determined, a spokeswoman said.

Damage at KU

Kansas University, hit hard by the March microburst, saw some of that damage exacerbated by the hailstorm, spokesman Mike Krings said.

The most significant damage was sustained by roofs at Strong and Blake halls, he said. Robinson Health and Physical Education Center, which had temporary roofing installed after the microburst, had damage. Vehicles on campus also were damaged, but it wasn’t known how many, Krings said. No damage estimate had been determined.

A power outage at KU’s computer center caused several campus buildings to be without Internet access until late Monday afternoon, Krings said.

While hail caused damage to neighborhoods near downtown and farther east, the western two-thirds of the city experienced a power outage shortly before midnight. Power was out to 21,500 customers, according to Westar Energy. The power was restored to 19,300 of them within 30 minutes and to the remainder about three hours later, a spokesman said.

Rain helps farmers

Despite the hail, the storm did more good than harm to area farmers, said Bill Wood, agriculture agent with the Douglas County Extension Service. Some wheat fields may have sustained minor damage from hail, but since wheat is not a primary crop in Douglas County, farmers are looking on the bright side, he said.

At Lawrence Municipal Airport, 1.4 inches of rain fell Sunday night. But after weeks of little or no rain, any soaking was welcome, Wood said.

“Whoever got an inch of rain is going to say, ‘This was a million-dollar rain for me,'” Wood said. “But if you didn’t get it, it hurts.”