A fast-moving storm system Saturday dumped hail the size of softballs on a wide swath of White Hall and Pine Bluff, resulting in damage that White Hall Mayor Noel Foster called “horrific.”
“We’ve got lots of residences and commercial businesses damaged,” Foster said Monday. “We’ve got 20 to 25 city vehicles and I know some of them are going to be totaled because the damage is so bad.”
Included in the damage were several police cars, and Foster said one of them sustained three broken windows. Foster said he estimated damages to city-owned property at around $250,000, with $40,000 in damages at City Hall.
State Farm Insurance Agent Bob Smithey said Monday morning that between 800 and 1,000 insurance claims had been filed so far dealing with damage to residences and businesses.
“There’s no way to know how many automobiles there are going to be because they’re mobile,” Smithey said.
John Lewis, the senior forecaster with the National Weather Service’s office at North Little Rock, said the storm that brought the hail developed near Ft. Smith between 4 and 5 p.m. Saturday then moved across the state, following the Arkansas River and hitting Jefferson County around 8 p.m. It then turned south toward McGehee before exiting the state.
He said the largest size hail reported was “just shy of the size of a softball at 3 and-a-half inches. A softball is four inches (in diameter).”
Baseball size hail (two and one-quarter to three inches) was reported in a number of locations.
Pine Bluff police spokesman Lt. David De Foor that while police cars that were parked at the Civic Center received “dings and dents,” there were no broken windows that he was aware of.
“The cars that were on the street got under the overpasses when the storm hit,” De Foor said.
Pine Bluff city officials were still assessing damage Monday.
Smithey said he received his first call about the damage while the storm was still going on, and his office fielded a number of calls Monday.
He said State Farm will be sending in two teams of adjusters and agents to handle claims, one for vehicles and the second for structural damage to residences and buildings.
The location for the team that will deal with vehicle damage had not been determined Monday, and Smithey said in the past, the parking lot of Lowe’s was used for that purpose.
“They set up very large tents and could look at three or four vehicles or more at a time,” he said. “Right now the key thing is getting windshields replaced so people can drive their vehicles. They can get the dents out later.”
State Farm is responding to the storm damage caused by hail across Arkansas over the weekend, Jeff Davis, a public affairs specialist for State Farm said in an email.
“If you are a policyholder with damage to your home or vehicle, a claim can be submitted through various channels. This includes contacting your State Farm agent, calling 1-800-SFCLAIM, or submitting a claim through our mobile app ‘Pocket Agent’ or through our website at statefarm.com/claims,” Davis said in the email.
“Policyholders with property damage should make reasonable temporary repairs to prevent further damage if it is safe to do so. Save receipts if you purchase items such as tarps and plywood or other supplies to make repairs. Depending on your coverage, these repairs may be reimbursed.
“Our claims team is monitoring and surveying damage to the area and will begin assisting our customers. In addition, State Farm agents and agent’s staff are also helping customers as we begin the recovery from this event,” he said.
Foster issued a word of caution to residents about “letting people that are going up and down the road or advertising on social media do repair work without checking them out.”
“We encourage folks to use local contractors whenever possible but you want to make sure that whoever you use is reputable, bonded and licensed,” Foster said, adding that if anyone in the White Hall area is unsure if contractors are reputable, they can contact City Hall.
“Anyone who does business in our community has to have a permit from the city,” Foster said.
Both he and Smithey also said that people with storm or hail damage should never pay for repair services up front but only after the work is done.
Lewis from the weather service said it was not unusual for storms like the one that hit Saturday night to pop up a couple of times each year, but “what was unusual was to get reports of hail that size.”
“We’re kind of fortunate that the storm system did not affect a wider area of the state,” he said.
Many Pine Bluff and White Hall car dealerships also saw damages. At Trotter Ford on Bobo Road and I-530 Monday, General Manager Jerry Moorehead said around 300 vehicles were damaged on his lot. He said the dealership is planning a “hail sale.”
“We have minor to medium damage on many cars, but nothing that I would consider major,” Moorehead said, adding that Trotter Toyota across from the Pines Mall also has hail damaged vehicles.
At Smart Auto Group in White Hall, Lee Smart said assessments were still being made.
“We have probably four lots or so with cars that have damage,” Smart said.