Last week's storm: A mess but not a disaster

06/26/2012 4:51 PM

06/26/2012 4:51 PM

Last week's storm may have delivered the largest hailstone in state history, but it is unlikely to result in any state or federal disaster declarations, officials said Monday.

"To this point in time, we do not meet the threshold" for a disaster declaration, said John Crosby, assistant director of Sedgwick County Emergency Management.

That threshold is a bit more than $1.46 million in damage in the county for infrastructure such as roads, bridges and public buildings, and $3.46 million in the state.

"We're still playing a little bit of catch-up," Crosby said, but he doesn't expect late additions to bring the damage total close to the level needed to trigger a disaster declaration.

Local roofers offer contrasting views of how much damage last week's storm caused.

"We're hearing all kinds of numbers," said Rose Pickle, office manager for Heiland Roofing.

Those numbers suggest anywhere from 40,000 to 70,000 roofs need to be replaced in almost exclusively residential areas of south and west Wichita.

Pickle started work at Heiland after the massive hailstorm that struck central-west Wichita in July 2009.

"Our call volume is probably three to four times what it was for that," she said. "It's incredible."

Those numbers may be up because more homeowners are looking for local roofers rather than signing on with door-to-door solicitors, she said.

But Charles Lester, owner of Allied Roofing, said last week's storm was "not even close" to the 2009 hailstorm.

"If you're talking about the size of the hail, it was much bigger," Lester said. "But the area damaged is much smaller."

Perhaps an eighth of the city was hit by hail last week, he said, "and it's all west and southwest."

"I don't think it's near as bad as it was last year."

Still, State Farm reached the "catastrophe" threshold in the number of claims the day after the hailstorm, said Kendra Dunagan, a licensed insurance salesperson in Tammy Long's office on West 13th Street.

"It's been pretty crazy" with all the calls coming into the office in the wake of the storm, she said.

Hail the size of baseballs and grapefruit was reported in numerous locations, and a stone that fell on South Milstead, near Pawnee and 119th West, is expected to be a record for the largest diameter hailstone in Kansas.

The stone was 7 3/4 inches in diameter, 15 1/2 inches in circumference, and weighed a little over one pound. A task force will be convened later this week to confirm the measurements.

The previous record for largest hailstone in diameter is a stone that fell in Coffeyville in September 1970.

Today, city cleanup crews will begin picking up tree branches left curbside in an area bounded by 31st Street South, Meridian, and the south and east city limits. Limbs may be picked up in other parts of the city depending on how much damage is reported to the city, officials said.

City officials do not have a cost estimate yet on the cleanup, said Gay Zetrouer, supervisor of the city's maintenance division.

"Give us a couple of days," she said. "We don't really know what the scope is yet."

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