Jimmy Bowlds, general manager of Whitney Contracting, found HailStrike while searching for new roofing apps. The Web-based service alerts subscribers to local weather events — hail, storms, high winds — via smartphone or laptop. By subscribing, Bowlds says, you can actually track the storm as it moves through a given area receiving reports as often as every four minutes.

The tracking service shows subscribers the thickness and intensity of the hail, as well as specific locations right down to street and individual address. Bowlds recently followed a good-size storm as, over the course of two hours, it meandered from Western Kentucky on its way to Louisville.

In times past, finding homeowners who needed a new roof as the result of a storm was largely a matter of luck or calls to insurance adjusters. These days, roofers — particularly those who specialize in storm work — are investing in subscriptions to hail-tracking services that collect and analyze vast quantities of meteorological data and provide an almost minute-by-minute picture of an oncoming storm, which appears as a banded multicolored blob on your computer screen with different colors denoting hail thicknesses.

Hail tracking gives restoration roofers a leg up on identifying and rapidly responding to the damage that hail of a certain density can cause. In the case of Whitney Contracting, in Owensboro, Ky., for instance, it would take hard hail, wind driven, of at least ¾-inch diameter, to bring about the kind of damage that would cause the roof to need replacing at the insurance company’s expense. The company’s service area extends two hours from its offices, so Whitney Contracting’s subscription to HailStrike provides reports on weather events in Kentucky, Indiana, and Tennessee. “In our business, it saves a lot of time and money,” Bowlds observes. It might take weeks for roofers not subscribing to such services to find hail-hit neighborhoods.

Enhanced Technology

For companies such as K. Simon Construction

, in Long Branch, N.J., a storm restoration specialist operating in several states, services such as HailStrike provide a national picture of storms unfolding across the country.

Owner Kelly Simon can use the service to quickly put local managers and affiliated installers on the ground. He signed up for HailStrike and says that the alerts and reports on recent hail storms in Atlanta enabled him to quickly mobilize sales reps and installers. “We sold 25 or 30 deals,” he says.

Tom Potts, president of the Storm Alliance Group, which generates commercial building leads for its network of affiliated local roofing contractors, pays $59.95 per month to Live Hail Reports, which, along with HailStrike, is among several companies offering hail-tracking services, typically through website access supplemented by phone alerts, with subscriptions costing anywhere from $49.95 to several hundred dollars per month. Hail tracking, he says, lets his “mobile consultants” get there first.

—Jim Cory is editor of REPLACEMENT CONTRACTOR.