People across the Omaha area called insurance agents, roofers and glass repair shops Friday after a hailstorm tore through the region Thursday night.

Rick Gobble spent his Friday morning doing what he called an “odd kind of spring cleaning”: vacuuming glass shards from his car and sweeping the remnants of the back windshield from the street.

By the time he heard the “tapping, grainy sound” of hail Thursday night from inside his condo on the corner of Country Club Avenue and Colby Street, it likely already was too late to save his car from damage. Still, Gobble, 53, rushed to get the car into the garage.

When he got to the steps he hesitated, not wanting to run out into what he said looked like it was “raining billiard balls.”

When he did step out into the storm, one of those hailstones ripped through his umbrella.

“When I got to my car there was just a mound of glass where the back windshield should be,” Gobble said. The wind blew glass and hail all the way to the dashboard.

Auto glass repair shops were flooded with calls Friday morning.

“It’s been heavy, nonstop,” said Scott Bleyhl, owner of River City Glass in Omaha. “We’re just telling people first come, first served.”

Bleyhl was getting calls mostly about cars’ rear windows. That glass, he said, typically is thinner than windshield glass.

Danny Seier, who lives near 50th and Charles Streets, was covering his Toyota’s rear window with cardboard and a tarp Friday morning after hail knocked out the glass Thursday night.

The hail, which he said started about 9:30 p.m., was as big as tennis balls.

“You could hear the big stones,” he said.


Douglas Wingate Jr. was standing on his porch on the corner of 51st and Grant Streets on Thursday night when the hail started to pound his neighborhood.

“When I saw how big they were getting, I went right back inside,” said Wingate, 73. “Boy, it was no fun listening to it — that awful noise — and knowing it was probably destroying things.”

Sandra Latour, who is with an Allstate Insurance agency in northwest Omaha, said the phone started ringing when the office opened at 9 a.m. Friday.

Customers were calling about damaged auto glass and roof shingles.

“They’re just trying to get it cleaned up and back to normal,” she said.

Jim Camoriano, a spokesman for State Farm Insurance, said that by early Friday morning the company had received a few hundred vehicle claims, mostly from people in the Omaha area.

Among those claims were about 100 vehicles so badly damaged that they could not be driven, he said.

Camoriano said he also is expecting plenty of claims for damaged roofs.

At midmorning, Jason Brozak, an estimator for Ciaccio Roofing, said he had handled 12 calls by 7 a.m. from people with concerns about their roofs.

“We’re as equipped as possible” to handle the expected increase in workload, Brozak said.

Ciaccio Roofing typically handles commercial flat-roof work, he said, but the company will take on residential projects in light of the severe storm.

At Pyramid Roofing, Mike Mills, vice president of sales and marketing, said he began getting calls about 10:30 p.m. Thursday, mostly about broken skylights. By midmorning Friday he had received 40 to 50 inquiries about roof repair.

Mills said Pyramid probably will hire additional workers if storm-repair demand continues to be heavy.

David Pearson, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Valley, said the storm developed midafternoon Thursday near O’Neill in northeast Nebraska. A tornado was reported in Cedar County, near the South Dakota border, he said.

Part of the storm headed east toward Sioux City, Iowa.

The rest of the storm moved through the Norfolk area and continued southeast, gaining strength as it moved into the Omaha metro area about 9 p.m., he said.

Pearson said the Benson neighborhood and midtown Omaha reported some of the worst damage, with hail as big as baseballs.

Sarpy County also reported damage, he said, including in Papillion and areas north and south of Highway 370.

The timing of the severe weather — its nighttime arrival — was key to it developing into major hailstorms, said Becky Kern, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

“We could say ‘What if?’ with weather all the time,” Kern said. “This happened to be the perfect scenario where supercells went into this environment and were able to strengthen and grow big hail.”

The two supercell storms that delivered the barrage of hail intensified as they reached the Omaha metro because they encountered what is known as the nocturnal low level jet.

A summertime phenomenon in the Great Plains, the low level jet is a stream of warm, moist air rushing northward from the Gulf of Mexico. It flows in at about 3,000 to 5,000 feet and provides lift to the atmosphere.

As the storms arrived they encountered this warm, rising air, which gave the storms “lift,” a crucial ingredient to severe weather and hail.

For large hail to form there must be a strong updraft that props up the hailstones, allowing them to be coated and recoated with ice.

Reports indicated that some hailstones in the Omaha metro reached about 4 inches in diameter.

One indication of how powerful the updrafts were with these storms is the heights of their tops, she said. These storms rose to 47,000 feet.

There was good news with this hailstorm, Kern said. The wind was negligible.

Had there been strong winds with these large hailstones, homes would have been badly damaged, with holes in siding and windows.

Pearson said the storm produced smaller hail — about the size of pingpong balls — as it moved into Council Bluffs and then fizzled as it moved farther into Iowa.