After 5 inches of snow fell on Oct. 19 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, roofing contractors have been struggling to help residents still recovering from the August derecho.
In Cedar Rapids, snow was again predicted to hit the area on Oct. 25 and 26. Typically, the Quad Cities area doesn’t see measurable snowfall until Nov. 21, so homeowners are raring to have their homes restored before winter truly takes hold. Unfortunately, supply shortages and overworked teams are scrambling to meet those demands.
“It’s pretty chaotic right now,” said Austin Wadden, co-owner of Top Angle Contractors in Davenport, Iowa. “The snowstorm we just got, that’s really putting a damper on everything, and between COVID and this derecho, material right now is an absolute nightmare to get these customers done.”
Months after the pandemic caused stay-at-home orders and multiple businesses to either close or operate at lower capacities, a derecho struck the Midwest between Aug. 10 and 11. The derecho is said to have caused an estimated $7.5 billion in damages due to 126 mph winds and tornadoes. Many characterized it as a hurricane that struck the middle of the country.
“You couldn’t even get on most streets because of the trees in the roads,” Wadden said. “I saw entire rooftops blown off, decking and all.”
Cedar Rapids took the brunt of the storm, with nearly every structure within the 75-square-mile city limits damaged in some capacity. In light of all this, roofing contractors like Top Angle Contractors are putting aside competition with one another for the sake of helping others months after the storm hit.
“I’m actually communicating with quite a few contractors, trying to help each other out with different subs and with different installation guys and just trying to make everything easier for everybody, that’s how busy it is,” Wadden said. “This storm is the most I’ve ever worked with competition contractors.”
Among those working in the area is Infinity Roofing & Siding, which specializes in storm damage. David Bishop, a project manager in the Iowa area, said that there is simply too much work to be completed in the area. He said he’s working 12-hour days just to keep up.
“A lot of people need help, and there’s not enough labor to do all the work to get it done in time,” Bishop said. “That’s probably the biggest funnel.”
On the supply chain side, Bishop said they’ve been fine with roofing materials so long as they stick to a limited selection of colors, but the siding aspect of the business is seeing a four-month lead time on products.
Options Exteriors, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, officially expanded its operations to Iowa in July, one month prior to the derecho’s arrival. Christina Bible, director of operations for Options Exteriors, said she visited the area the day after the derecho struck to check on its Iowa branch to find everyone in “crisis mode.” She visited the area again last weekend and noted that conditions have improved, there is a long ways to go.
“There’s still trees through people’s houses, windows blown out,” she said. “It’s been a wild ride.”
Despite the chaos, Bible remains optimistic. She said they’ve doubled the Iowa team since the derecho and are about two weeks out on roofs, weather permitting. As a testament to a reputation built on 20 years of experience, Options Exteriors was able to obtain shingles from South Dakota to use in Iowa.
“Obviously it’s sad for the community, but it’s been working in our favor that most of our employees that we’ve had down there are now from there, and they have great partnerships and relationships built with the community,” Bible said. “They have been amazing at getting on these homeowner’s roofs, getting on tarps, doing whatever it takes to get those materials there and get at least some semblance of roofs on their houses.”
However, Bible said between the derecho and supply shortages of shingles and plywood, a lot of customers are now starting to look into the viability of metal.
“There has been some interest in homeowners transitioning from asphalt roofs to metal roofs,” she said. “The type of devastation down there was just so great the shingles didn’t even matter, it was actually whole roofs being blown off, but we have been doing some more metal roofs.”
Other contractors couldn't help but find a little humor during the unusual winter weather. Iowa Legends Roofing & Remodeling poked fun at people who may have jumped the gun on Christmas: