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ABC Disaster Archives: May 25, 2008. The Day Everything Changed

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I was just outside of Hudson, Wisconsin, and looked to the northwest.  It was about 3 in the afternoon, and the sky was as black as midnight. Hot and humid, and then I watched the temperature sink like a stone.  This was going to be bad, I turned on WCCO to hear about a tornado and large hail pounding the northern metro of Minneapolis. The tornado, an F-3, which means wind speeds between 156-206 mph, was tearing through Hugo, MN

Waters Edge Community in Hugo, MN  (800 Unit townhome complex) is like a small city  and it was  nearly destroyed.  By the grace of god, it stopped about 100 yards away from the where the northeast corner of the community starts.  See the house tossed in the pond? 

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That's how close it was to completely wiping out the entire complex.

I got the call to meet the client out on the inspection.  Plus I had to mobilize our crews to start boarding up 1500 windows, as rain was on the way. The National Guard escorted me and our crews in. Storm chasers literally formed a ring around the entire outside perimeter.  Hundreds of them.  Just watching us.  Ever figure out why my industry has such a bad name?  You should have been there and seen that.  Wow. Pretty desperate.

We had had to begin work immediately.  The community could not wait on an agreed price and scope with the insurance company.  American Building Contractors self funded the entire project as the insurance company was kicking this one automatically into appraisal.  When it was all said and done, it was easily the largest hail claim in Minnesota history, and one of the largest non-hurricane related projects ever, nationally.

Check this material list out:

  • 1 million square ft of roofing
  • 600,000 sq ft of siding
  • 3.5 million roofing nails
  • 2.4 million siding nails
  • 3,000 windows
  • 800 garage doors
  • 450 AC Units
  • 450,000 linear feet of aluminium coil = to 86 miles

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And it had to be done in 4 months.  Because that is when the asphalt and paving had to start. And it was.  

Lot's of things changed that day.  In my industry, lives change in 20 minutes, or whatever the duration of the storm.  Our entire industry changed that day.  The insurance industry, contractors, management companies, you name it.  

This one high profile loss set the tone for change in mobilization and construction practices that still reverberates today.  It showed how one company stood up and faced the challenge.  And delivered on it's promise to make the community whole again.  And we did!!  

Happy anniversary to all involved.  It was a day never to be forgotten in many unforgettable days at ABC.

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Wayne Srsen