Sunday, June 26, 2011


In April and May of 2011 severe thunderstorms including several as late as May 24th and 25th, raked across north Texas – some producing hail the size of baseballs. Yikes!

These missiles went through car windows and store facades/windows with ease and severely damaged many homes. Many residents only became aware of the damage to roofs of their homes in and around Fort Worth to far north Dallas until they started to discover pieces of shingles in their gardens, substantial amounts of shingle granules in their gutters or subsequent storms that revealed now leaky and compromised roofs. We had large hail at our home and, yes, we found pieces of shingles in the garden…

Fifty American Airlines (AA) aircraft at Dallas-Fort Worth airport (DFW) — nearly one of every 12 airplanes in their fleet — were out of service for several days after the May 25th storm while repairs were made to those aircraft. Overall (though preliminary) damage estimates are in the 200-300 million dollar (US) range though that number still increases every day. The loss in revenues at AA includes the cancellation of over 700 outbound and inbound DFW flights. There was more damage at Love Field in Dallas, home to Southwest Airlines who reported eight hail damaged planes and scores of cancelled outbound and inbound flights.

Airline passengers at DFW and Love Field were hastily evacuated from their aircraft and provided shelter in the terminals. That reminded me of an incident several years ago when a tornado came over the house and I found myself in an interior hallway with two mattresses over me holding Ms. Sophie Baggins (female Maine Coon Cat) who seemed OK, even placid, despite the screaming sirens and the roar of the nearby twister which luckily never touched down.

The storm that hit DFW and Love Field ravaged our neighborhood with the sound and fury of winds to 70 mph, nearby tornadoes, hail up to half dollar size and the constant thundering symphony of the hail especially as it hit the west facing roof surfaces and wooden fencing. The next morning revealed fencing that had heretofore weathered to a nice gray patina now pockmarked with thousands of dents to a white color that made the fence seem nature’s tribute to eccentric abstract painter Jackson Pollock. I kinda like it

The hail damage to automobiles (see photo above?) even to those still on north Texas car lots was substantial and even now one can take advantage of now famous, “Hail Sales” though the old adage, Buyer Beware seems ever more applicable. Nobody wonders around here why so many dealers keep their inventory under cover.

We here in Texas have been in a moderate to exceptional drought this year and though we have seen some rain of late, it comes heavy and hard. So we go from drought and terrible wildfires (3 million+ acres to date) to excessively wet to this hail and discover once again that our hardy band of Texas Farmers continue to show great character under duress. Appears to be part of their DNA. Texas A&M reports that while the wind and hail did damage to Texas wheat and oat crops, thankfully, it was not significant.

Some residents had recently criticized the north Texas weather warning system for engaging the sirens for hail as well as our primary weather threat - tornadoes. This latest series of storms with their deadly potential has for the time being silenced their protestations. I, for one, want to be warned so that I can find cover and protection for my partner, Family, Friends, our possessions and, yes, me… Imagine what I might look like after being pummeled by baseball sized hail raining down at 100+ mph? Not pretty… but some would say an improvement…

Our northern neighbors in all of the Great Plains including Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa and the Dakotas also know and understand well the phenomenon of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes and their dangers all too well.

For What It’s Worth: For my Friends and Family in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, yes, your twisters are a rare occurrence but not unheard of. The Commonwealth reminds us of the irony that until the recent devastating tornado in Joplin, Missouri, the nation's deadliest single tornado was the Worcester Tornado which swept through Central Massachusetts on June 9, 1953. The Worcester Tornado was on the ground for 1 hour and 24 minutes, traversing 46 miles and at its most powerful measured a mile wide at its base, a classic F4 event on the old Fujita scale though some still maintain it would be rated an F5 under the Enhanced Fujita Damage Classification Scale given its 260+ estimated mph winds. A great deal of debate in meteorological circles still exists about the rating of this storm with many rating it an F4-F5. Indeed, its power and volume appears to have fluctuated between these ranges. Ninety-four people were killed and over 1,200 were seriously injured with 640 homes destroyed and another 3,700 severely damaged. Bottom line: None of us in the US are immune.

Back to Texas… So, while this weather report and post may seem to be old news, its consequences are now being realized. Now comes the out of region roofing contractors, some just cruising through the state, aye, fly-by-night roofing companies papering neighborhoods with pamphlets, flyers and business cards hopefully destined for the trash can. That plague of locusts probably hasn’t been as bad this year given the horrendous damage and loss of life in Joplin, Missouri and Tuscaloosa, Alabama that sucked most of the out-of-towners to more profitable venues. For those hard-hit communities it’s going to take a decade or more to repair and heal. They need Friends and advocates, not profit mongers. Thank God for the American Red Cross…

The Insurance Council of Texas estimated that this latest hail storm affected 350,000+ homes in North Texas, mostly smashing shingles and stripping them of granules — damage that can't be detected from the ground.

Our street and really the entire neighborhood in the last several weeks sprouted innumerable yard signs heralding and advertising the repair or replacement work of myriad roofing companies – a phenomenon that according to experts will last at least another two years - just from that one late May storm. A once quiet neighborhood is now characterized by the cacophonous pounding of hammers. When I was with ELK I noted estimates that some 60% of their overall business was replacement/repair as opposed to new home starts. With that latter figure now way down there is no doubt that the replacement percentage is much higher.

Given our dynamic, historical and most recent experiences we offer several recommendations if you have experienced roof damage. First, don’t do business with an out of town firm – use local companies – there are a lot of great ones here in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is a great place to consult if you are looking for a starting point.

Secondly, consider using one of a variety of contractors/consultants to evaluate the condition of your roof – one that doesn’t have a vested interested in selling you a roof. Like a buyer appraising a product they may want to buy – you stand the potential of not getting a fair price or in this case, an accurate evaluation of your roof’s condition. A neighbor confided in me that one company told him that his whole roof needed to be replaced when, in fact, it only required the replacement of a few shingles. Another nearby house had a brand new roof installed. Their “old” roof was maybe five years old and in good condition. Our damage was $600+ to mostly repair shingles on the westward facing ridge lines.

Third, don’t use a company that is going to sub out their work. You are paying for the expertise of that firm, not just folks with a pick-up truck and a willingness to brave 140+ degree roof temps. Putting on a roof is an engineering art, not a menial chore. I was talking with a crew member installing a new roof in the neighborhood and he didn’t know the name of the roofing manufacturer or the difference between a three-tab or architectural shingle. Yikes!

If you determine that roof replacement is your only reasonable, legitimate option, consider purchasing wind and impact resistant shingles (Class 4) that also have a fungus/mildew/algae resistance capability such as those manufactured by GAF-ELK. The high profile, laminated fiberglass ELK “architectural” products are especially hardy though note there never really is any total guarantee against weather related damage. Mother Nature can be ferocious… You may pay from 10% to 50% more for these high performing shingles but the long term investment in these products is well worth it. We have an ELK roof.

Lastly, impressed or not with your first roofing contractor, always get three estimates and at all times in writing, signed and specifying what they will perform and the guarantee/warranty on their work. We note that you may not always choose the lowest bid, rather the one bid and contractor for which you have the greatest confidence.

So now as over thirteen major wildfires burn throughout the state of Texas, the prospects of thunderstorms, rain, tornadoes and that pesky hail now appear remote. With the influence of a “Little Girl” aka the “La Nina” phenomenon of warmer than usual Pacific Ocean temperatures which redirects the jet stream causing severe drought in Texas, some almost wish for the return to our violent weather – but, then again, maybe not.


Ned Buxton

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