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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Storm causes millions of dollars in damage to city

The storm that tore through the city of Grinnell last week lasted only 20 minutes, but caused over a million dollars worth of damage to city property, and perhaps millions more to private residences.

Hailstones traveling over 100 miles per hour ripped apart vinyl siding, destroyed roofs, dented cars and sent several members of Grinnell College’s track team to the hospital with wind-whipped bruises after being caught in the storm mid-run.

The storm hit Grinnell the hardest out of all the towns in the county, according to the national weather service in Des Moines.

At the College, the storm left 10 trees damaged, scattered debris, wrecked several windows and screens, damaged the roof of the new athletic facility and blew part of the pole vault measuring standard into a fence near the track.

“Compared to the west side of town, I say we got off pretty easy,” said Mike Burt, Assistant Director of Facilities Management. “It only took us about five work days and six people to clean up campus.”

For the city of Grinnell, cleaning up from the storm will cost a lot more.

“For City-owned property, I’m roughly guessing it’s going to cost $1 million,” said Grinnell Mayor Gordon Canfield. Most of that will be spent on repairing the damage done to city buildings such as the Drake Library and Stewart building, and removing dents from police cars, according to Canfield.

The storm affected more than two thirds of the city of Grinnell, and damaged most houses and structures on the west side of town, according to Ryan Ness, Building and Planning Assistant for the town of Grinnell.

“My house alone will be in the tens of thousands of dollars to repair,” Ness said, referring to the half inch hail balls that crumpled his shingles, siding and windows on his old Victorian house on the West side. “It’s probably just as bad or worse for the other houses near me.”

The massive damage to homes has brought in a horde of contractors from Illinois, Minnesota, Kansas, Nebraska, and even as far as Texas looking to profit off of the storm. Roughly 40 contractors from outside the state applied for solicitation permits, according to Ness. Solicitation permits allow businesses to go to residential homes and promote their services after the police department runs a background check on the company, and the individuals.

So far one company has been turned down, and Ness warns residents to be wary of contractors that ask for large sums of money up front, and to look up all contractors on the better business bureau website.

“There have been a handful of complaints when signing contracts with outside contractors,” Ness said. “I think a lot of it was the person signing the contract didn’t understand what the contract entailed.”

The influx of outside contractors hasn’t slowed the frenzy of phone calls to local carpenters from residents looking for home repair. In fact Fred Billion from Fred’s Maintenance had to turn people away.

“Our phone won’t stop ringing,” Billon said. “Given the damage to my house, and the rest of the town, it’s hard to keep up.”

The storm shattered his windows, flooded the inside of his house with ice and glass and stripped off vinyl siding and part of his roof, all of which has to be replaced. He said he can’t even begin to imagine the cost.

“The insurance will help greatly,” Billion said. “This is an experience I don’t wish to repeat.”

Billion’s insurance agent, Bob Larson of State Farm, one of 22 insurance agents in Grinnell, has received 200 homeowner claims and 150 automobile claims, and predicts more will follow.

“We’ll be working these claims for three weeks or a month,” Larson said.

Like Canfield, he is unable to estimate exactly how much all of his claims will be worth, but he’s sure that there will be lots of work in town for residents and independent contractors alike.

“It won’t be long for [outside contractors] to find work,” Larson said. “The local folks can only do so much work.”

Outside contractors like Ben Schmitt of Schmitt Roofing from Burnsville, Minn. has already completed over five different repair jobs since they came into town Monday. The company has acquired a solicitation license from the town of Grinnell.

“We’re not here to steal work from the local people,” Schmitt said. “We thought coming here would be a good opportunity for us, and to help the town here.”
Schmitt Roofing, which has offices in Des Moines, Colorado, Kansas and Oklahoma, has already done construction in other areas where last Tuesday’s storm hit in Cedar Falls and Waterloo.

Schmitt Roofing opened an office in town with the intent of staying here for five years in order to establish credibility in the community, and allow costumers to approach them if there is a problem with the repair.

“A lot of people don’t know which are the good contractors and the bad ones,” Schmitt said. “That becomes a problem for the good contractors to assist people.

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