Damages from Vermilion County hailstorm estimated 'in the millions'

Damages from Vermilion County hailstorm estimated 'in the millions'

TILTON — When a severe storm swept through Tilton last Thursday afternoon, about a dozen or so employees and customers hunkered down in a back room at Mike's Grill.

Thankfully, no one was injured, said owner Eric Sherer. However, the popular hamburger joint's small white building wasn't as lucky.

Sherer said golf-ball-size hail tore through the roof and clogged storm drains, causing water to come in through the ceiling and through the front and back doors.

"About half of our dining room, my office, both the men's and women's restrooms and a storage area were leaking," he said. "It was pretty bad."

Sherer was forced to temporarily close the 61-year-old business at 2006 Georgetown Road (also Illinois 1), which has been in his family for three generations.

He said Servpro technicians started the cleaning process immediately and got fans and dehumidifiers going, and roofers are repairing the roof. Fortunately, he added, there doesn't appear to be any drywall damage, and the building never lost electricity, so he only had to throw out fresh-food items.

"We're looking at possibly opening back up this weekend," said Sherer, who is meeting with insurance adjusters on Wednesday. "It depends on how fast things dry out."

Business owners and homeowners are still cleaning up following the storm, which dumped hail and heavy rains on Vermilion County, stretching from Potomac in the north to parts of Georgetown in the south.

"We had hail damage to cars and buildings throughout the county, but Tilton, Westville and Catlin got hit the hardest," said Ted Fisher, director of the Vermilion County Emergency Management Agency.

While insurance adjusters have just begun assessing the damage, Fisher estimates it will be "in the millions."

"This was definitely the worst storm we've ever seen," added Todd Cox, owner of Todd's Auto Body in Tilton.

Cox said his business on Southgate Drive typically does about 20 estimates a day.

"We wrote 200 estimates on Friday," he said, adding that the calls started at 4 p.m. the day before, and damage estimates range from $3,000 to $10,000.

"We're going to be fixing hail cars for a long time," he said, adding that he has a team of 12 dent technicians on staff.

Drones on the way

On Monday, State Farm sent a team of claim specialists to the Danville area, six of whom are drone pilots and will be using the technology to help in their assessments of roof damage, said Heather Paul, a public affairs specialist.

"We can get the drone up and see detailed damage, take high-resolution photographs of that damage and download it to a tablet to show the customer and contractors," she said, adding there will still be times when a drone can't be flown due to trees or other reasons, and an adjuster will have to go up on the roof.

Some area farmers, who are already frustrated with wet weather that's delayed planting, are dealing with hail damage to their crops.

Kelli Lyons, of Midwest Agri Credit, said she knows of two in the area whose soybeans had actually emerged.

"Unfortunately, they got hit with hail pretty hard," she said, adding one is her brother, Doug Kirk.

Kirk said he and his business partner, Greg Emmert, had half of their crop in, including about 260 acres of beans in a field between Catlin and Georgetown.

"From our perspective, this is a crop that had absolutely 100 percent yield potential," he said, adding the beans were planted in late April and were two inches tall.

Kirk, Emmert and co-worker Dan Todd took shelter in a large machine shed, "holding our hands over our ears" because the sound of hail pelting the metal building was deafening. When they emerged, they saw it had damaged 30 to 35 percent of the field.

"To see that was an absolute disappointment," said Kirk, who said it's too late in the season to replant.

Kirk said the hail also damaged the roofs on all of their buildings and several vehicles and high winds took down a couple of trees.

Danville damage report

Just a block south of Mike's Grill, Toyota of Danville also suffered widespread damage, said General Manager Bob Oltean.

He said hail damaged aluminum panels and siding on the building and likely the roof.

And "every single vehicle that was on the lot was damaged," he said, adding there were about 300 new and "previously enjoyed" vehicles, and all require some type of body work, whether it's to the body or windows.

The vehicles are still for sale "in any condition the customer would like to purchase them with safety items like headlights and tail lights repaired," Oltean said, adding they can get them at a discount and make the repairs themselves or let the dealership make them.

Since Saturday, he added, his business has gotten 80 deposits from customers wanting to buy some of the vehicles.

Oltean said he will work with Toyota to replenish the inventory.

"We also appreciate the outreach from fellow dealerships in the area, offering us undamaged units," he said.

Like Sherer, Oltean — who was driving home from Chicago when the storm hit — said he's just grateful that his roughly 48 staffers, as well as customers, who took cover in a vault or inner hallway, weren't injured in the storm.

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