By Dave Smith
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Crews are working extended hours to replace windows, solar panels, repair roofs and remedy other damage on Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, as a result of the brutal hail storm of July 28, 2016.
The storm, dubbed the sixth-most damaging event in the history of Colorado by the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association, caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage in the area through tens-of-thousands of insurance claims. For Peterson AFB housing, 669 dwelling units and 1,650 windows, among other destruction, fell victim to the storm’s large hail.
Setting things back to the way they were prior to Mother Nature’s vengeful visit was somewhat slow, said Dan Rodriguez, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron deputy base civil engineer. The initial inspections by insurance teams took about a month, then roughly two months longer to finalize adjustments and determine monetary claim figures
“That allowed the ordering of materials to begin in November,” he said.
Following completion of the insurance adjustments, another challenge presented itself, Rodriguez said. Competition for qualified crews to make repairs was fierce. The path of destruction left by the storm left many residents throughout Colorado Springs in need of the same repairs and demand for the crews was high.
“Work defiantly started up slower than anyone wanted,” Rodriguez said. “Our expectation that it would be done sooner than 18 months was unrealistic.”
Strong winds and sub-freezing conditions throughout December, along with the holiday season, added to the challenge of getting repairs underway. Rodriguez said there was a great deal of glass scattered around from all of the broken windows and cleaning it up required removing most of the landscaping rock, which was a labor-intensive task.
Starting with windows, he said the plan was to go through and replace them block-by-block. However, the sheer number windows needing replaced caused a change in plans. Homes with four or more windows destroyed were given priority as hardship homes. Those homes accounted for a total of 411 windows.
Now qualified work crews are sorted out and fully engaged in making repairs to hail-damaged homes. Overall about half of all the windows have been replaced. About 14 percent of the roof repairs are complete, with phase one of the work 94 percent complete.
“With the weather as nice as it’s been there’s a flurry of work going on,” Rodriguez said. “We have multiple crews going. We are trying to do it as quick as we can. We want quality work and we want to be safe.”
“Local contractor availability was an issue in the early stages, but the teams we did secure are well-prepared and up to our high safety standards,” said Gerald Schmitz, senior vice-president and regional general manager with Lendlease, Tierra Vista Communities’ parent company. “We have been blessed with the ability to pull resources from out of the area to help support our repair efforts.”
The work entails more than simply replacing the windows or solar panels. Schmitz said various phases of work include screen replacements, flooring and drywall repairs, paint touch-ups, replacement of horizontal gutters, damaged downspouts, and damaged roof vents. He said about 60 percent of all downspouts in the base community will be replaced.
The recent stretch of unseasonably warm weather has helped. Rodriguez said work was started about a month earlier than a normal winter would allow.
“Now we are seeing really good progress and it’s going to be real busy,” Rodriguez said. “With daylight savings time, they extended their working hours.”
Crews are working from 7:30 a.m. — 6 p.m. with preparations and clean up adding a half hour on each end of the schedule.
21st CES is working closely with Tierra Vista Communities to make sure all repair and resident issues are addressed. Weekly briefings are provided to 21st Space Wing leadership to keep them up-to-date on progress and challenges.
“Residents should contact Tierra Vista first, then if they still need something, contact CES,” he said.
Schmitz said the easiest way to reach TVC with concerns is through email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.