Storm Cleanup Begins; DIA Seeing Delays

Hail Hammers Homes, Cars

Residents from Commerce City to Windsor are cleaning up broken windows on their homes and cars after a series of severe thunderstorms swept through Colorado Wednesday afternoon.

Thunderstorms swept along the Front Range and eastern Colorado plains, producing golf ball- and baseball-size hail, several reports of tornadoes and strong winds that demolished a barn.

Hail pounded parts of the northeast Denver area, smashing car windshields and home windows.

Several car accidents were reported, but Adams County Sheriff's Sgt. Candi Baker said she didn't know the extent of the injuries.

The bark and limbs were stripped from trees in the area. Plows cleared piles of hail so thick that they looked like snow. People also shoveled the ice out of the way.

In Commerce City, entire neighborhoods are dealing with damaged roofs, broken windows and dents.

"Big hail, golf ball-sized hail," said homeowner Bobby Cloud.

"I'm devastated. I don't know what to think," said homeowner Jamie Aragon.

And now that the hail stones have stopped, the invasion is underway: aggressive contractors eager to find work.

“It’s unbelievable. I’ve personally contacted about 25 contractors, 20 of them don’t know anything about the law. We have 5 other inspectors out here. They’ve each probably contacted at least 10 themselves,” said David Lutter, manager of Commerce City’s neighborhood services department. “We’ll we’re trying to be a little proactive. You know we don’t want to go out there and say ‘Hey, here, it’s the law.’ and write you a summons. We’re trying to educate them.”

Lutter said that summons for breaking the city’s door-to-door solicitation ban can become a fine if $1,000 once you’ve appeared in court.

“We’re trying to protect the citizens. Because what we don’t want to do is have some gypsies coming into the neighborhood and then they give them some money and then they’re gone,” Lutter said.

By noon, some homeowners had seen enough strangers.

“Nuts! Lots of them. Pretty much they’ve been walking around the neighborhood. I think I’ve been home an hour and there’s been about 8,” said homeowner Tarryn Thompson, noting that even the legal recourse of leaving a flier on the front door was getting tiresome. “I’m just stacking ‘em up and waiting for the insurance adjusters to get out here first and do all that and then kind of do what they tell me.”

Like so many others, her roof, garage and back deck had been severely damaged, with even large bricks broken by the large hailstones.

Thursday was also spent cleaning and waiting for insurance adjusters, clearly delayed by the volume of calls.

“We don’t know (how ling it’ll be). They said it could be 12 -24 hours,” said Donald Greenfield, Foxton Village homeowner.

His home’s windows, roof, back deck, and Ford Pick-up were hammered. “A one in a million shot. Hehe.”

Because 2009 was a record-setter with $1.4 billion in auto and home insurance claims, a spokeswoman with the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association said it was too early to get a handle on how many claims would be made from this storm. But she acknowledged that some residents could be leery of filing another claim and said the average homeowner files one home insurance claim every 8 years.

About 60 miles north of Denver, a barn in Windsor was demolished by the wind, Fire Department spokeswoman Brenda Stroman said. Residents reported a tornado hit the ground, but fire officials didn't see it, Stroman said.

Commerce City police said several tornadoes were spotted around 2 p.m.

DIA Sees Delays

Denver International Airport experienced 30- to 60-minute delays Wednesday afternoon because severe weather limited use of its six runways. Airport spokeswoman Laura Jackson said planes were taking off on two runways and arriving on just one.

The storm delayed operations by about two hours Wednesday night, stranding about 200 passengers. Officials say they handed out water, sleeping mats, and blankets.

On Thursday, the ripple effects of the storm could still be felt, with passengers experiencing delays, cancellations and long lines through airport security.

DIA said stranded passengers should be accommodated by Thursday or Friday, and airline officials are working to get planes back on schedule.

No tornadoes touched down on airport property, Jackson said. However, tornado sirens and swirling clouds sent passengers running to the bathrooms to seek safety.

United Airlines said none of its planes were damaged by hail but 40 flights were canceled. Frontier Airlines said no planes were damaged but there is an incredible backlog from the shutdown on Wednesday.

Contractors Swarm In, Offering To Help

Almost as quickly as the storm moved out, contractors started knocking on doors offering their repair services.

LINK: Advice on selecting a contractor

"Their pitch is if we give the business to them, they'll help us out with our deductibles," said homeowner Tony Sena. "If we sign over the money to them, they'll take care of the rest."

The Better Business Bureau suggests to always check the references of a contractor. Also, always have your insurance money go through you and not directly to the contractor.

"(For repair companies), now is a good time to visit homeowners," said Cmdr. Ross Sibley with the Commerce City Police Department. "Their emotions are running high after the storm as they survey the damage to their homes."