Beachside blitzed by hailstorm

With fences down and damage to vehicles, homes, roofs and pool enclosures, it might feel like hurricane season came early – but this was no hurricane.

On Wednesday, March 27, a rare hailstorm passed over the area, leaving many beachside residents in a state of shock at the amount of chaos left in its wake.

Across social media, neighbors shared photos of smashed car windshields, ravaged gardens, broken house windows and hail, as it accumulated in piles outside their homes.

Dave Seiwert said both homes he owns in Indialantic sustained damage from the storm, and he can’t find his 5-month-old cat, Dino.

“All hell broke out for 15 to 20 minutes,” Seiwert said.

Bob Perry of Indialantic said he has lived beachside since 1978 and never witnessed anything as intense here. “Looks like all my windows survived but my window screens and screen enclosure have several holes,” he said.

Kat Clary of Indialantic said her car was damaged and her yard is a mess. “I have never been through a hail storm and prefer never to again. I felt the air change, looked outside and saw the rain/hail combination was a complete whiteout,” Clary said. “It seemed like it lasted an hour but was only 10 minutes or so; the sound of the hail on the roof was alarming and I was worried about my animals.

Jonathan Strauss of Indialantic was working from home when the storm began, and said he thought to himself, “Oh, a little rain.”

“Then I started to hear some noise and it got really bad,” Strauss said. “I grabbed my wife and newborn daughter and we went to the bathroom like a hurricane. I hear a window on the other side of the house shatter. The wind was so intense. Howling! It sounded like bowling balls were being dropped on our roof and at the same time the roof was going to rip off.”

Matt Boyd of Indialantic said that fortunately his home wasn’t impacted, but it affected workers who were overseeing the Indialantic storm drain replacement project in progress on his street.

“Those poor workers were sent scurrying and watched from their trucks as their work was flooded out,” Boyd said. “With the size, speed and quantity of the hail, the noise was terrific; the hailstones were coming in at a 45-degree angle.”

During the storm, a woman near Wendy’s in Indialantic had a power line fall on her car. When she called police for assistance, she was advised to remain in her car until help arrived. Workers from Florida Power & Light were soon on scene and removed the line, so she could drive away safely.

So, exactly how did this happen? Hail forms in large thunderclouds, which typically occur in warmer months. The hot air pulls water droplets high into the atmosphere where it’s very cold and they turn to ice, which is heavier. The ice begins to fall, and you get a hailstorm.

Matt Volkmer, a senior meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Melbourne, said events like this are very rare in this area.

“It was a vigorous upper level system that dropped over the area,” Volkmer said. “When we get these large hail events it is not a typical cold front; it’s abnormally cold air.”

He said the last similar hail event took place in March 1992 in the Orlando area.

“It’s a springtime occurrence when it happens, typically in March, April or early May,” Volkmer said.

Kevin Downs, the owner of Five Star Claims Adjusting in Melbourne, said homeowners should immediately document any damage and have a licensed claims adjuster conduct an inspection because some damage may not be immediately visible. And, he advises that even if your insurance company sends out an adjuster, it’s wise to consider having a public claims adjuster also inspect the property.

One potential issue, he said, are roofs.

“Even brand-new roofs may have been compromised because the hail will shorten the life span of the roof,” Downs said.

“This storm was extremely widespread, and the size of the hail was something that I think was historic for our area. People have told me they’ve never seen hail that size.”

Patrick Hogan, a certified roofing consultant with Total Home Roofing, a licensed company based in Rockledge for over 13 years, said homeowners should be wary of roofing companies from out of state that come into the area after a storm.

“Our advice is don’t sign a blank contract,” Hogan said. “We are seeing a lot of people signing blank forms and giving their claim away to someone who may not have their best interest.”

And he said you should never sign anything unless there is a price written down and you are comfortable paying it.

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