Rutland hailstorm had costly impact
By Gordon Dritschilo
Staff Writer | May 29,2014
Albert J. Marro / Staff Photo
Kevin Bowie of Shearer Honda in Rutland shows one of the vehicles on the lot damaged by hail during the severe storm Tuesday.
Cars, gardens and windows took a beating as Rutland endured the worst hailstorm in memory Tuesday.
More than an inch of rain fell in 17 minutes, accompanied by hailstones as large as 1.75 inches across.
Mayor Christopher Louras said Wednesday that city infrastructure, at least, fared well, with the washouts he was aware of happening in areas that already had problems.
“People are trickling into (the Department of Public Works) with complaints, people whose basements got flooded,” he said. “We’re still out assessing. ... As always, there were some lessons learned. I think we brought in fire and police early enough to respond. We could have been a little more proactive by 15 minutes or 20 minutes with DPW. We could’ve had DPW folks on hand ready to respond immediately after the storm ended.”
There was some dimpling of municipal vehicles, Louras said, and many privately owned cars were hit hard by the torrential hail storm. The damage sent Rutlanders to repair shops in droves.
Mike Parker of Parker’s Classic Auto Works said his 17-person crew worked on about 40 storm-damaged cars Wednesday and was already booked up for today.
“It’s way more than dimpling,” he said of the damage. “This is the worst hail storm I’ve seen. There’s some hail hits that were very deep and where multiple hailstones hit, panels caved in. We’ve seen broken mirrors, broken windows, broken tail lights ... We had a convertible top with seven holes in it. It’s an assortment of things we’ve never seen before.”
Parker said the repairs and estimates ranged from $3,600 to $11,000 and that the most complicated repairs could take six to 10 days.
“We’ve got about 700 cars on the ground between the three dealerships,” said Mark Alderman of Alderman’s Chevrolet. “We’ve got some that have a fair amount of repairable hail damage, some with no hail damage and about everything in between. No cracked windshields — we’ve got dimpling and some cracked tail lights.”
Alderman said most of his cars had some damage, but that he expected to have actual numbers later in the week after working with an insurance assessor.
Hannah McMillen, a manager at Garden Time, said gardens around the city were heavily damaged.
“The ice pellets themselves do damage when they come down, but then, when ice sits on the plants, that can damage them, too,” she said.
“We’ve got most of our tender annuals in greenhouses, but we did have some vegetables out that took damage between the two,” she said.
McMillen said she had been swamped with calls from home gardeners with extensive losses and that she was worried about what became of the region’s farmers.
Greg Cox of Boardman Hill Farm in West Rutland said he lucked out in the timing.
“Memorial Day was early this year,” he said. “I always figure, first week of June for tomatoes and things. We had some spinach with a little damage. Mostly, we made out OK. ... I don’t know of anybody that got hurt really bad.”
Michael Coppinger, executive director of the Downtown Rutland Partnership, said that while he had not finished checking, it appeared that about a dozen globes had broken on the city’s antique-style street lights and that a handful of windows broke.
“The Howe Center actually got hit really hard,” he said. “I think they had about 80 panes of windows that were damaged.” However, Coppinger said there was no major damage.
“Today, folks are back to their shops and cleaning the debris in front of their shops,” he said. “It’s sort of back to business as usual today.”
Coppinger said that while there was some basement flooding downtown, it did not approach what the buildings have seen in previous storms.
“I think that, because of time it happened, people in their stores and shops were able to deal with it,” he said. “In the past, some of those storms were after shopping hours.”
Coppinger singled out Fruition owner Rebecca Buonadonna for praise. She ventured onto the flooding street with a broom to clear a storm drain by her shop.
“She was doing everything in her power to keep that storm drain open,” he said. “She really went above and beyond.”
One collection of outdoor fixtures that seemed to escape unscathed were Rutland’s solar panels.
Steve Costello, Green Mountain Power’s vice president of generation and energy innovation, said the post-storm surveys have not found any damage. “We haven’t done every one of them, but the sets we have looked at so far — no problems,” he said.