Residents of Yellowstone County are no strangers to unpredictable weather – it’s part and parcel of life as a Montanan.
Yet a recent storm took things to an entire new level, bringing 70mph winds and hailstones measuring upwards of 3-inches in size, leaving a trail of destruction that is still being felt today.
The huge hailstones cause extensive damage to vehicles throughout the country, smashing into windscreens, sunroofs, and denting the bodies of most cars that were left outside.
John Bonner, owner of Glass Specialists of Billings, realized it was going to be one the busiest weeks in recent memory once the storm subsided.
He and his team headed out to the auto shop early Monday in anticipation of locals looking for auto glass repairs, and they certainly weren’t wrong, with all six phone lines ringing off the hook throughout the day.
The demand was so high that Bonner’s wife and some of the auto glass technicians had to man the phones to manage all the incoming calls. They knew they were in for a late night on Monday – and every night that week.
Bonner estimates 300-400% increase in work, as residents flood the various auto repair services in the county to get their cars repaired. Some required glass replacements, others dent removal from the body of their car – many needed both.
Thankfully, his auto glass repair shop is one of the largest in the area, with enough bay space to hold four vehicles at a time. Many smaller businesses don’t have this luxury and are working non-stop to meet customer demands.
Local business-owners have asked for patience as they work to repair vehicles, especially those seeking dent removal services, a process that can take several weeks depending on the extend of the damage.
As for glass repairs are Bonner’s auto shop, his team have managed to deal with the huge influx of work in that first week after the storm. While things have calmed down for now, he does expect another surge of customers in the coming weeks.
Many people are waiting to hear back from their insurance companies, so another wave of repairs is likely, although whether Bonner and other auto glass repair companies in Billings have the resources available is another question.
Most only stock up to three months worth of auto glass but the demand for repairs has put a huge strain on these supplies. For instance, Bonner explains that glass for Toyota Tundra models are already running low.
Also, different vehicles require different types of auto glass, while newer glass has advanced features that result in the need for a like-for-like replacement, further complicating the replacement process.
Bonner admits the past week has been more challenging than most but he’s also welcomed the increased business the freak storm has brought him.
“The first three days were just nuts,” he said. “I mean, every owner wants to do more business, but when you go up 300 to 400% like that, nobody can plan for that.”