Scale of Rockhampton hail surprised insurers, homeowners waiting as materials shortage worsens

It’s been 16 months since the worst hail storm in a decade swept through central Queensland, but hundreds of homeowners are still waiting for their roofs to be repaired.

The supercell caused an estimated $840 million in damage after it surprised the locals of Rockhampton on a Sunday afternoon in April 2020.

Material shortages and the volume of insurance claims have exacerbated the delays, with warnings that it could take another two years for all homes to be fully repaired.

Len Palmer said he was scheduled to start trading this week on his asbestos-infested roof, 80 percent of which was damaged. But he’s still waiting.

A man with gray hair and a mustache points to his house, which is surrounded by scaffolding.
Len Palmer of Rockhampton has been waiting more than a year after he first filed his insurance claim to have his roof replaced.(

ABC Capricornia: Jasmine Hines

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“Some hailstones were the size of cricket balls and two waves came through. The big stuff came through and drove us with the big hail and the small stuff came through and the whole yard was covered in snow,” said Mr. Palmer.

“It’s crazy, it’s just chaos.”

Two hailstones for a can of beer.
Len Palmer says his house was covered in hail.(

Delivered: Len Palmer

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Business Challenges

Roofer Clint Wehmeier, who owns a roofing company, said the hail storm was a “godsend” to his business, with 200 repairs on his books and hundreds more in the city.

However, the strong demand for services brought its own challenges.

A man smiles.  He wears a yellow and black polo.
Clint Wehmeier owns a local roofing company.(

ABC Capricornia: Jasmine Hines

)

His focus was on securing new construction to make the most of the housing boom, but he said it had been a struggle to find materials such as screws and wood.

“Insulation is another. We hear reports of them even talking about importing insulation into Australia because we just can’t get enough of it,” Mr Wehmeier said.

Michelle Traill, Master Builders’ central manager in Queensland, said some companies had reported waiting weeks for roofing materials and faced skyrocketing costs.

“There’s a real problem with the supply of wood, which affects roof trusses. There’s a boom in the United States, where we used to import a lot of wood,” she said.

A hand holding a screw.  A box of screws is shown.
Mr Wehmeier says his company is also affected by screw shortages.(

ABC Capricornia: Jasmine Hines

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Companies flock to capitalize

Traders from all over Australia have flocked to the region to cash in on repair work.

Ms Traill said there were still up to two years of roof repair work due to the hail storm that is in the pipeline.

“In the long run, we need outside contractors to support our local contractors as well, otherwise people can wait a long time.”

a small white car with its rear fender smashed in by hail
This car of Torben Chapman, resident of Bungundarra, was damaged during the hailstorm.(

Delivered: Torben Chapman

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Mr Wehmeier said he was still getting calls about new insurance claims 18 months after the storm hit.

“Everyone has to be patient. It’s a very difficult, very difficult time.”

Two men on a roof removing old iron roofing sheets.
The Swiss Re Institute says the older age of Rockhampton homes contributed to the insurance industry’s average claim costs due to the hail storm.(

ABC Capricornia: Jasmine Hines

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Insurance industry surprised

International organization Swiss Re Institute measures insurance risk and in its April report this year said the Rockhampton hailstorm took the industry by storm.

The industry’s final estimated loss was $839 million, and Swiss Re Institute said insurers were hit with higher-than-average claims.

The institute said factors such as solar panels, the older age of homes and new building code requirements for cyclones increased costs.

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