Swirling bands of hail damaged an estimated 50,000 vehicles in Collin, Denton and northern Dallas counties on the night of March 23, and the damage will probably keep area body shops filled for months.
The storms also broke windshields and dented bodies on several thousand cars and trucks at new-car dealerships, mostly in Plano and Lewisville.
Hundreds of homes sustained broken windows and skylights and damaged roofs.
Mark Hanna, a spokesman for the Insurance Council of Texas, said the group is still gathering information from insurance agents and did not have a preliminary estimate of damage on the afternoon of March 24.
“I’ve talked to a half-dozen agents in the Plano area, and some say it looks as bad as the storm on March 16 in Tarrant County that caused $600 million damage,” Hanna said. “Agents say they are just inundated with calls.”
The storm system hit Lewisville before moving east to Plano between 10:15 and 10:40 p.m. on March 23, National Weather Service meteorologist Dennis Cain said. The precipitation varied widely, he added.
There were reports of pea-size hail in Grapevine, 2-inch hail in Plano and hail the size of a half dollar in Flower Mound.
The National Weather Service had several high-wind reports — there was a 75-mph wind gust near the Coppell-Irving city limits on the night of March 23. Collin County was hit with high winds, too. Cain said they destroyed a barn and blew debris into power lines in Murphy.
Cain said the overnight storm system is not unusual for this time of year.
“A strong upper-level system that had a lot of energy in it pushed a cold front through,” Cain said. “We were very windy, so it brought a lot of gulf moisture up.”
An EF-0 tornado was recorded in Haslet on the night of March 23, causing roof damage to buildings.
Storms are coming to North Texas about every five days, Cain said.
Damage at dealers
At least 5,000 new and used vehicles were damaged at car dealerships in Plano, with much of it focused along Plano Parkway and Preston Road.
At Toyota of Plano, for example, 600 vehicles were damaged, and at least 100 of them might have to be totaled, said Rusty Gentry, general manager.
“We got hammered,” Gentry said. “We’re doing an inventory now of the damage, but we’ve got cracked windshields, dented hoods and roofs.”
The dealership will buy inventory from other dealerships and is purchasing extra used vehicles to supplement its inventory.
“Life goes on,” Gentry said. “We’ll survive. We’re still selling cars.”
The dealership was the third-largest auto retailer in Collin County last year, selling more than 3,500 vehicles, according to the The Freeman Auto Report.
Nationwide Insurance even sent a new high-tech mobile assessment van to Lewisville on March 24. The vans greatly speed the estimate process, a Nationwide spokeswoman said.
The insurance company already had one of its Automated Mobile Hail Estimating Units in Arlington to deal with damage from last week’s storms in Tarrant County.
Nationwide customers can drive their damaged vehicles into one of the vans, which use high-definition computer technology to scan the vehicle and map out the damage in about 10 minutes.
Plano-based Huffines Auto Group estimated that 3,000 new and used vehicles were damaged at two of its dealerships in Lewisville and three in Plano.
But the hail didn’t break or crack many windshields, and much of the body damage can be repaired with paintless dent removal, group CEO Ray Huffines said.
While the dealership works to settle with its insurance company, it will offer deals on the damaged vehicles, which can be repaired or left as is but sold at discounts.
“It could have been a lot worse,” Huffines said.
Likewise, Five Star Ford, which is a few blocks east of Huffines’ Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram dealership, had about 1,000 vehicles damaged, most of them relatively lightly.
“It’s all [paintless dent removal] from what I could see,” said general manager Brian Huth. “There may be a couple that need panels, but I think most of it will be PDR.”
As PDR workers set up tents at the dealership to begin repairs — using rods and other tools to tap light dents out — Five Star will be selling cars and trucks, some of them still wearing hail dimples.
“A lot of people are looking for a deal, and if they can get one on a new vehicle with warranty, they might not care about a few little dents,” Huth said.
Overflow of business
Richardson-based Service King, one of the largest collision repair groups in the U.S., expects all of its 34 shops in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to soon be filled with hail-damaged vehicles.
Jeff McFadden, president of Service King, said the hail damaged 248 cars that couldn’t be squeezed into garages and bays at nine Service King shops.
“The real hot spots are all in Plano — Park and Preston, Coit and Preston,” McFadden said. “We got a little bit in Lewisville. But, really, we have not been hit this hard since ’03.”
He estimated that 30,000 vehicles in Tarrant County were damaged by the storm last week and another 50,000 got hit the night of March 23.
“With gas prices low and people driving more, our stores were real busy to start with,” McFadden said.
Although the heaviest damage was focused in the Plano area, customers’ vehicles may need to be diverted to other area shops after the Plano shops get full.
“This will fill all of our shops in the area, probably through the summer,” he said.
Because of the volume, many damaged vehicles will be scheduled for repairs and put back on the road if they are safe to drive.
“You can be looking at a one-day repair if the damage is light,” McFadden said. “If it’s heavy and involves replacing the roof, windows and other panels, it could be a lengthy repair.”
We would like to thank The Dallas Morning News for reprint permission.