Storm rips businesses Churches, businesses take a hit during hailstorm

From retail stores to churches, a number of buildings on or near Main Street in Lovell suffered damage during Thursday night’s hailstorm that pounded north Big Horn County.

One of the hardest hit was the Lovell Bible Church on Main Street. According to church member Elwood Ennis, the storm with its 70 mile per hour winds peeled off at least a quarter of the church’s flat roof – the front (north) portion of the roof – including insulation and the roof membrane. The roofing material piled up against the air conditioning/heating unit and broke the gas line in two places.

M.A. Bischoff disposes of a dustpan full of glass as Les Tippetts and Jerod Tippetts salvage what they can in the front display from the outside. Max Bischoff leans up against the wall in the back. Valley Flowers and Gifts was among one of the worst hit businesses in Lovell. The group gathered to tend to the shop an hour after the storm.
Ryan Fitzmaurice photo

Fortunately, Ennis’ son Tyler Ennis was eating with wife Tanea at the  Brandin’ Iron Restaurant nearby. When glass began breaking in the restaurant from the incoming hail, Tyler knew the church would be hit hard, too, and hurried to the building.

“He came on over here to check and saw all of the debris,” Elwood Ennis said. “He could smell gas, and the meter was spinning. So he shut it off. The line had broken in half at one of the front heaters. I’m not sure if it broke another one. It’s all wrapped up in the roofing material.”

Part of the roof ended up on the adjacent CK Hardware roof next door, and a lot of debris fell between the buildings. Some of the roofing material hit, wrapped around and bent the electrical service post on the roof, Ennis said, which pulled the electric panel from the wall inside the building and bent it over the panel below.

“When the electric company saw that, they cut
off the power at the transformer,” he said.

The church building also suffered water damage in the rear social area, and water poured into the sanctuary in several places, especially along beams. Water hit a projector, lights, ballasts, fans and more. Miraculously, musical instruments in the church including a grand piano, saxophone and bass clarinet were not damaged.

Hail broke out three windows, two in the main part of the church and one at the front of the Sunday school wing. The roof
leaks in several spots now, Ennis said.

Until the church building can be repaired, the Bible Church is meeting at the Lovell Community Center at 9 a.m. each Sunday, with a social hour at 8:15 p.m.

The Lovell United Methodist Church also sustained damage on the north wide of the sanctuary as the wind and hail broke at least 33 panels of the sanctuary’s windows on the left side of the room when facing the altar. Church members vacuumed up the glass and closed up the windows before Sunday services. There was also some water damage in the building.

St. Joseph’s Catholic Church also sustained damage in the form of three broken windows.

Damage to stores

The Main Street business that appeared to suffer the most damage was Valley Flowers and Gifts at 154 E. Main. The wind and hail blew out two of the storefront’s four large window panels – the two westernmost panels to the right when looking at the store from the outside.

“Most of the glass fell inside the store,” owner Cheryl Lewis said. “It also blew out some ceiling tiles and insulation. Everything (product displays) in those front windows was destroyed.”

Glass blew well into the store and was even embedded in the wood flooring at the store’s entrance.

“I was lucky,” Lewis said. “Most of the internal displays were untouched. With that wind whipping in here we did pretty good.”

The wind and hail also broke out the neon on the store’s sign.

Next door, the major damage at Lovell Drug was to the store’s outside sign, while the fairly new, large storefront windows survived the onslaught.

“Our neon tubes got shattered out,” owner Brent Reasch said. “We also found a crack at the bottom of one of our doors in the corner. But we were pretty fortunate.”

Also coming away mostly unscathed was the Queen Bee honey candy operation on the 200 block of East Main. Co-owner April Christensen said only the old windows high atop the former Rocky’s Too building were broken but not the candy shop storefront below.

Just down the street, however, the center storefront window at Kurt’s Cuts blew out during the storm, knocking hair product bottles to the floor.

“It shot glass clear to the back room,” owner Kurt Wheeler said. “We had double-paned windows, and it went through both panes.”

At the Econo Inn at 595 East Main there are 15 visible damaged windows on the north side of the motel, and manager Jesse Moore said seven rooms upstairs and five downstairs had windows broken, leaving them unavailable for use, as well as the motel lobby and adjacent apartment.

“In some rooms it got both sets of windows,” Moore said. “We had glass blown to the back of
the rooms, clear to the hallway door.”

Fortunately, there were no guests present in the rooms when the storm hit.

“Nobody had checked in by that time,” he said.

Moore said five of the rooms were expected to be repaired this week.

Stacy Bair said both the Bairco Construction and Club Dauntless buildings were “pitted pretty good” by the storm, which hit the buildings’ metal siding hard. She said five windows on Bairco’s warehouse buildings were broken, and 15 vehicles in the construction company’s fleet were “broadsided by hail.”

Across the highway, Midway Motors suffered damage to the company’s inventory of vehicles, boats and campers. A company spokesman did not return a call seeking more information.

Hyart damage

The venerable Hyart Theatre suffered damage to the theatre’s familiar towering sign.

“Our sign is beat to death,” manager Wendy Roth said. “The west side is complete out – all of the neon. And about a third of the sign on the east side is damaged. I have no idea how much it (the repair) will cost. It’s custom neon.”

Roth said a representative of Epcon Sign. Co. of Billings looked at the sign this week, and she is awaiting the estimate. She said the sign company rep took measurements and drew patterns for neon tube
replacement. She was also able to give him some old pieces that were intact but no longer worked.

“Every piece has to be hand blown,” Roth said. “One piece we ordered last year took four or five months to come in.

“I don’t have an estimate of the cost, but our deductible is really high. It might be time for a fundraiser.
The adjuster will be here next week.”

Roth said she didn’t seen any damage on the roof other than the poor shape the roof is already in.

When the storm hit the Hyart was about the play the latest “Mission Impossible” movie, and with the power out the movie was cancelled for the night as the volunteers swept up tiny shards of neon glass from the street and sidewalk.

“We were worrying about the power (outage) and didn’t even realize the neon had broken until we heard crunching outside (from car tires),” Roth said. “Most of it hit the street where people park.”

By David Peck