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Shop owners pick up the pieces after Thursday storm

By Brittany Jackson, Abilene Reporter-News, Texas
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

June 14--Abilene was full of people gawking at the damage done to buildings, houses and vehicles, tentatively stepping over broken glass and branches as they tried to go about their daily activities on Friday.

The morning after the hailstorm ravaged town on Thursday evening, owners were finally able to assess the damage done to their facilities. The north side of town seemed to have gotten the brunt of the storm with broken windows, shattered signs and rooms soaked with water.

Although businesses sustained damage themselves, they still had customers to serve.

Budget Car Rental rented all of its cars and is waiting for more to arrive, and Enterprise Rent-A-Car is sending for cars from the Midland, Lubbock and Austin area, after a portion of its local fleet was damaged.

Brian Green, owner of Cypress Street Station at 158 Cypress St., had his restaurant pummeled by the storm.

He said 15 to 18 windows were broken on the second floor, resulting in water leaks as the storm raged on. The heating system was ruined by the hailstorm, and his signs were shattered.

"We're seeing the whole downtown community pitching together to help the (Children's Art and Literacy) festival," he said.

Laura Moore, executive director of The Grace Museum, said she was only aware of superficial damage to the building.

About 20 windows and skylights were broken in addition to the building's neon signs.

"I would say we emerged well," she said. "We're just happy everyone is safe."

Several church buildings were not as fortunate.

Eric Couvion, superintendent of First Baptist Church at 1333 N. 3rd St., said the extent of the damages were unknown in the morning, but the costs appeared to be substantial.

"We're in seven digits right now," he said. "We're probably around a million, and that's only a guess. It's too early to tell."

The clay roofing on the sanctuary is wrecked, and the flat roofs damaged. He said many skylights and windows throughout the facilities were shattered by hail.

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Rev. Cliff Stewart, senior pastor at First Central Presbyterian Church at 400 Orange St., said the steeple and roof "is a total loss." At least one layer of the skylight's glass was shattered and debris scattered all over the property.

The steeple and roof were completed about four to five months ago after being smashed by another hailstorm over Easter in 2011. Stewart said the cost of repairs has not been calculated, but the previous steeple had considerably less damage and cost $350,000 to fix.

"We are just so thankful it wasn't anything worse," he said. "It's just property, and property can be replaced."

Not everyone in the city suffered such extreme damage, though. Janis Test, information services manager for the Abilene Public Library, said the building appeared to have escaped the storm.

She said many children and families rushed to the library when the rain began, narrowly avoiding the hail.

"I am so happy no children were injured, because it could have been awful," she said. "That's what concerned me most. We were very, very lucky here."

Many in Abilene have now entered the recovery stages of the storm, contacting businesses to have windows and roofs fixed and filing insurance claims.

Leif Merck, owner of Minuteman Press 1230 N. 3rd St., looked to the financial aspect of the situation.

"What happens now is the roofers and the storm chasers come in, and that's the worst part. They're like transients," he said. "But it'll help our economy. Things are moving now."

Leah Mazzarelli, communications and media relations manager for the city, said ParaLink will continue to be canceled Saturday.

Schools affected by the storm included McMurry University, Abilene Christian University, Abilene Independent School District and Hardin-Simmons University.

McMurry was fortunate enough to have only one building damaged, a window in the Cooke Building broke.

Jason Groves, chief marketing officer at ACU, confirmed the university received damage, but could not determine the extent.

Phil Ashby, director of communications for AISD, said three rooftops for elementary school on the north side of town received damage.

HSU sustained cosmetic damages to several of its residence halls, the library and class halls, according to a news release from James Stones, executive director of University Relations, Sandino, one of the Six White Horses, was also hit by a piece of hail and lost his eye.

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The Abilene Zoo also had animals injured in the hail. Four flamingos died and three were injured, one is in critical condition. Property was also damaged.

E'Vonne Gipson and Rachel Fritz contributed to this report.

___

(c)2014 the Abilene Reporter-News (Abilene, Texas)

Visit the Abilene Reporter-News (Abilene, Texas) at www.reporternews.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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