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‘Revenue from the skies’

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Semion Amalanii works on the roof of a car damaged by hail at Car Crafters. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The hailstorms that pummeled Albuquerque this summer continue to send a deluge of customers to local businesses.

The extent of the damage was widespread and often severe. A spokeswoman for State Farm told the Journal that customers in Bernalillo, Sandoval and Santa Fe counties submitted more than 1,700 auto claims and 1,220 homeowner claims related to hailstorms on July 30 and 31, with the majority coming from Albuquerque-based policy holders.

Sean Guthrie, director of operations at auto body shop Car Crafters, said the late July storms brought hail the size of ping pong balls to the area and were the worst he has seen since 2005. He estimated Car Crafters will repair between 1,400 and 2,000 vehicles as a result of July and August hailstorms, with the bulk of that work being completed within the next few months.

“It will take about six to eight months to see all the cars come through, because some people wait for awhile to come in,” said Guthrie.

A car damaged by hail awaits repair at Car Crafters on Aug. 29. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Guthrie said Car Crafters brought in “sublettors” — contractors performing dent repair that does not require repainting — to help with some of the volume. The most common issues are damaged chrome and mouldings; broken windshields, he said, are more typical when hailstones reach the size of baseballs.

“You don’t want to be profiting off of misfortune, but the truth is that we’re like the doctor,” said Guthrie. “Most people only go into the doctor when they’re sick, and that’s the worst time to see anybody, but we try to make it as easy on our customers as we can.”

In addition to increasing the demand for repair services, the glut of damaged vehicles has also affected the rental car market. Hussein Nimer, manager of rental agency All Best Cars, said there’s a shortage of rental cars throughout the metropolitan area, in part because many rental cars — including some at his company — were also damaged by the hail.

“Overall, it’s been better for business,” said Nimer. “Right after the storms, we had about double the number of normal customers, though it’s starting to slow down.”

Some of those customers, said Nimer, are what individuals in several industries call “storm chasers:” workers who set up temporary car and home repair businesses in areas where hailstorms have hit. Some of these outfits are legitimate, others are scams. In August, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas issued a fraud alert warning residents to check the credentials of door-to-door repair people before employing them or even allowing them to provide an estimate. Chelsea Matts, office manager at Alvarado Roofing, said the storm chasers haven’t affected the company’s business much. Matts said Alvarado has experienced such an influx of calls from individuals seeking roof repairs, there is now a three-to-four-week waiting period for estimates. Actual repairs are being booked out as far as 2½ months.

EverGuard Roofing doesn’t perform residential roofing repairs, but company controller Jennifer Palmer said she’s fielding lots of calls from people seeking those services. As for roof replacements, which it does provide, EverGuard experienced a 75 to 80 percent increase in requests for roof replacement quotes in the wake of the storms, according to Palmer.

“Dry weather doesn’t really get a lot of people worrying about their roof,” she said. “Rain, hail, wind: That’s revenue from the skies.”

Late-summer hailstorms are still sending a steady stream of customers to some local businesses. Here, Rheganne Mooradian uses a light to examine a sports car damaged by hail at Car Crafters. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

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