Posted 6/14/16 (Tue)
By Journal staff
Hail up to golf-ball sized on Thursday mowed thousands of acres of Divide County crop land, peppered siding with pock marks, dented cars, smashed windows and littered Crosby’s streets with a carpet of downed leaves.
Though no injuries were reported, the storm will be costly for farmers and consumers alike.
By Friday, said Divide County Deputy Zach Schroeder, a number of “no name” contractors had already been spotted in Crosby, leading Schroeder to remind people to be wary of scammers intent on pressuring people into prepayment for repairs.
Meanwhile, area insurance agents were fielding calls from clients reporting everything from widespread crop damage to claims on vehicles and homes (See page 6).
At the same time, Divide County Emergency Management Director Jody Gunlock was trouble shooting a glitch in the county’s new CivicReady system, which may have caused some people to miss notification of the severe weather approaching (See sidebar below).
Sustained for 6 minutes
Main Street, Crosby, looked more ready for a Christmas stroll than a county fair parade, after a six-minute-long onslaught of hail concluded at 4:30 p.m.
Eleven-year-old Cade Crotts was riding his bike home from an afternoon pool session and nearly got caught in the mayhem.
“It was fast,” said Cade’s mom, Stephanie, who was thankful her son was nearby shelter -- Crosby’s NAPA store -- when the pummeling began.
“He dropped his bike and ran inside,” Stephanie said.
A few minutes later, when Cade and others emerged, it was to marvel at the drifts of ice balls piled in front of Crosby Drug.
Lori Gilbertson, who lives across from Divide County Elementary school, was closing the window in one of her upstairs rooms when she said she heard the hail come crashing through an upstairs window. Another stone sent glass shards well into the living room. A tree on the side of her house went down and a large branch hung by a thread from the tree in front of her house. Neither of the damaged trees were ones they were wanting to trim, though.
Surveying the damage
Within minutes, people were out surveying the damage and crews began loading large branches downed in the melee.
“We’d been working since 6 in the morning. Then the storm came,” said parks employee Dylan Olsen.
Pete and Judy Peterson said the siding on the west side of their house took a beating and their flowers were all gone. They joked it was one way to get the yard aerated.
Rhonda Campbell got home in time to put her car in the garage before the hail came down. When the storm finished, she said she had to push the hail out of the way to get her door open, just like she does with winter snow. Campbell said her peonies had just bloomed and she was glad she had picked some and brought them to her mother in the nursing home, as they didn’t survive the storm.
Rodney Olin, just finishing a shift on the county road crew, said everyone at the shop who had their vehicle parked facing to the east left with a broken driver’s side mirror.
Even Crosby Cubs got in on the action, doing quick work to sop up puddles and ready Vournas Field for a game hail-delayed for 52 minutes.
Said Coach Monte Ellingson, “I’ve never had a game ‘hailed out’ before, and it’s not going to happen today.”
Dorothy Hartsoch had a broken window in the bedroom and a screen torn off. Luckily, she said, the flowers in the front of her house were okay. Her rhubarb patch was not so lucky. She was out raking before heading to the baseball game.
“I’m like Scarlett from ‘Gone with the Wind,’” she said. “I’ll think about that tomorrow.”
A group of homes just west of Crosby also were hard hit. Parts of Kurt and Sandy Kocher’s house were almost completely scraped of any paint, while other walls now are pitted with large holes.
Neighbors Travis and Morgan Ames and Brad and Brittany Sparks had similar damage.
“I think the brunt of it kind of went through here,” said Brad Sparks.
Commercial property also sustained extensive damage.
Siding at Northern Lights Apartments and on trailers at Crosby Meadows Mobile Home Park came out of the storm heavily pock-marked. Trim on the apartment building now has a hammered texture and even the metal slats on air conditioning units were bashed in on the building’s west side.
Tony Godlewski, a representative of an owners group, was receiving documentation of damage within minutes of the storm’s cease and moved quickly to assure residents of coming repairs.
“Soon the adjuster will be on site assessing the damage and together we’ll put a plan in place to make everything new and shiny once more,” he said.
He’s even offering renters a referral bonus for sending new residents in the wake of the storm.
At Crosby Meadows, a row of nine mobile homes had extensive damage, their long edge facing at the perfect angle to receive maximum impact from the hail, which was driven by a strong wind out of the northwest.
Another west-facing structure -- the former Badlands Espresso coffee kiosk in the Super Valu parking lot, looked like it had been shot up by a machine gun.
“It pretty much demolished that side,” said owner Logan Schweitzer, now of Westby, Mont.
Schweitzer, who closed the kiosk several months ago, said he had just removed the insurance on it and sold it to a party in Berthold.
“The people who were buying it were coming to get it Sunday,” said Schweitzer, but now will have to wait for repairs to be made before they can use it.
The hail knocked out the west-facing window of the kiosk, clearing the way for more hail to pass into the kiosk and crack a window on the opposite side.
Deputy Schroeder said area residents should guard against construction scams in the wake of the storm.
On Saturday Schroeder said he had already received calls from residents who have had ‘no name’ contractors knocking on their door offering repair work.
The deputy advises, “Never prepay, always request a contractor’s license, seek references, and never make a hasty decision.”