At least 11,800 cars and homes were damaged by hail last week in Nebraska, according to claims filed with the state's major insurers.
State Farm Insurance, Nebraska's largest single insurer, has declared the April 9 storm that struck the Omaha area a major catastrophe and has called in extra help to process claims, said Marc Forsyth, catastrophe reaction representative.
State Farm has received more than 6,200 claims, American Family more than 3,100 claims and Farmers Insurance about 2,400 claims.
Forsyth offered this simple advice for people whose homes or cars were damaged:
“Sit back and take a deep breath,” he said.
It's more important to hire a reputable contractor than to move quickly, Forsyth said. Unless the hailstones left holes in the exterior of your home, additional water damage is unlikely, even if you take months to a year or so to get repairs done, he said. And even those holes can be sealed while you await major work.
State Farm allows policyholders two years to get repairs done.
Other tips, information
Two storms: Hail hit the Kearney, Neb., area on April 8 and the Omaha area on April 9. The most damage, by far, was in western Douglas and Sarpy Counties, where winds blowing from the northwest damaged the north and west sides of homes. The National Weather Service says the path of damage in Douglas County was from 114th to 180th Streets. The line that started in Sarpy County went north past Fort Street to east of Bennington.
Be prepared: Another storm is headed through the region tonight and includes a chance for hail. Move outdoor items under shelter, including your car and your grill.
Save your receipts: All of them, including temporary repairs.
Hailstones: Most reports were of hailstones about ¼ of an inch to an inch. Hailstones typically must be 1 inch across to cause damage. In hardest-hit areas, hail sizes ranged from 1 inch to 1.75 inches across, according to the weather service. A few reports were of hailstones in excess of 2 inches. The largest hailstones were reported near Gretna and east of Bennington.
Go local: Hire a local, licensed, bonded contractor and check with the Better Business Bureau. You want to be sure the firm repairing your roof today can be reached two years down the road if problems develop. American Family offers a program of pre-screened contractors. They may or may not be local, but their work is guaranteed.
Get personal: If someone knocks on your door offering to make repairs, ask for a driver's license as identification, write down the license number and the vehicle's license plate number.
Hold onto your cash: Never give a deposit until you've checked a contractor's background and references, seen proof of liability and workers compensation insurance, and have gotten everything in writing, including cost, work to be done, time schedules, guarantees, payment schedules and other expectations. Never pay a contractor in full until the work is finished. Be wary of contractors who want money up front. If they say they need money for supplies, go with them and pay the supplier directly.
Take a picture: Photograph or videotape the damage, make any necessary repairs to prevent further damage, but don't make permanent repairs until your insurance company has inspected the damage and agreed to repairs.
Future rates: Insurance companies base rates on a variety of factors, not a single storm, so this particular storm will not automatically result in a rate increase. Factors include incidence of storms, fire claims, medical costs, supply costs. Furthermore, rates are adjusted regionally based on overall risks and costs, so those in the path of this hailstorm will not be singled out for any future increase. Instead, the burden, if a rate increase were to occur, would be shared by all customers in the region.
Sources: State Farm Insurance, American Family Insurance, Farmers Insurance, Nebraska Department of Insurance