By Sydney Mook
The Dickinson Press
KILLDEER—Crystal Vilas remembers driving backroads home from Dickinson to Killdeer as her husband checked the weather radar the evening of July 10.
They thought it was best to avoid the dangerous-looking thunderstorm to the north of them and stayed to the west of it just to be safe.
They arrived in Killdeer “literally minutes after the hail storm had hit,” she said.
As they drove up to their home, Vilas saw steam coming up from the ground that was covered in hail and debris. The siding on her home and her newly landscaped front lawn had been shredded, and her 2014 Dodge Ram dually pickup truck was completely totaled.
“It was just devastating, pulling up and seeing everything like that,” Vilas said. “… I went outside and was raking siding pieces off of my lawn, and that’s just when I broke down and was bawling. I was just outside in the dark raking up siding and bawling.”
The storm on that fateful evening brought wind-driven hail the size of golf balls that tore through the city of Killdeer, leaving behind an untold amount of damage that included hundreds of broken windows and tore siding on homes to shreds.
Not a single home or business in the town was left unharmed.
Nearly three months later, Killdeer is still in the midst of putting everything back together.
Vilas had moved with her family to Killdeer from Idaho in November 2015 and were the very first people to live in their home. She said they had put in a lot of time and muscle into making their home special and unique, and to have that all changed within minutes was heartbreaking.
“We put so much of our own physical work into this house to make it ours, to make it home,” she said. “This house wasn’t finished (when they moved in). There was stuff missing that the people who had built had just gave up on it. So we had to finish it. Then coming back and seeing it, it was devastating.”
100 percent of roofs damaged
Killdeer City Building Inspector Ron Fettig said every home in Killdeer received some sort of damage and 100 percent of the homes had to have their roofs repaired or replaced.
He said now many homes are just waiting for their contractors to come and start doing work, but some people may have to wait until the spring before things are fully repaired.
“Most of them (home owners) have contractors lined up. It’s just a matter of the contractors getting to the jobs,” Fettig said.
Fettig said while most residents have their contractors lined up and ready to go. They are still happy there were so many organizations from across the state that came to help the people of Killdeer in the days and weeks following the hailstorm.
“We’re pretty lucky that people came in and helped after and we’re very appreciative,” Fettig said.
Gerry Leadbetter, administrator of Hill Top Home of Comfort, said the assisted living facility suffered significant damage during the storm but is close to being back to normal.
The facility had skylights broken out, along with more than 30 windows smashed in by hail. There was also extensive damage to the roof and to new construction at the assisted living center.
Leadbetter said they’ve had several contractors come in and do repairs to get them back to where they need to be.
“Everything’s pretty much fixed,” he said Thursday afternoon. “We’re actually down to two windows that need to be fixed and those just came in the other day, we’ve got the roof up and in the nursing home we’re down to just some sheetrocking that needs to be done and it’s going really well. … So, after the storm we’re healing pretty good.”
Long repair process
Vilas said now they are in the process of fixing their home, and hired contractors to repair the roof of her home about a month ago. Thursday afternoon A+ Roofing was at the house to put new siding on the garage and the rest of the house.
Vilas said the family was lucky they didn’t have any west-facing windows—the direction the hail came from—that could have been broken.
“It’s all coming back together,” Vilas said. “We’re going to do our fence ourselves, just to save ourselves some money.”
She said while the siding will be completed in a matter of days, other things—like the fence, her landscaping and repairing their porch—will have to wait to be fixed until the spring when the weather is a bit nicer.
“Just doing all of that stuff, the smaller stuff, we’re waiting to finish until spring to finish because it’s too much to handle right now,” Vilas said.