Hail ravages Nebraska's 'Truck Mountain' store

Damage to 4,400 vehicles prompts quick assessments, reduced prices

Baseball-sized hail inflicted heavy damage to vehicles at Woodhouse Ford. The sprawling dealership, below, says it sells about 3,000 F-150 pickups a year.

Woodhouse Auto Family, which owns the famed "Truck Mountain" store that is the nation's top seller of F-series pickups, sustained damage to nearly 4,400 vehicles last week as storms pelted eastern Nebraska and western Iowa with baseball-sized hail.

The inventory at the Woodhouse Ford dealership consists of hundreds of vehicles parked on terraces carved into what it calls Truck Mountain and Ford Hill. All of the 2,500 vehicles on Truck Mountain were damaged by hail, said Lisa Cole, marketing director of Woodhouse Auto Family.

The hillsides flank two-lane U.S. Highway 30 south of downtown Blair, which is about 25 miles north of Omaha.

Woodhouse Ford sells about 3,000 F-150s a year, Cole said.

The storms hit Woodhouse stores and other dealerships in the region, leading to slashed prices and immediate damage assessments by insurance adjusters.

Jason Pittack, co-owner of Woodhouse Auto Family, said vehicles at Woodhouse's Ford and Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram stores in Blair and its Chevrolet-Buick store in Missouri Valley, Iowa, were damaged. The affected vehicles make up more than half of the group's inventory.

Last week wasn't the first time Woodhouse and other dealerships have had to weather a natural disaster. Pittack said a similar storm hit the dealership group around the same date in 2004. 

"We seem to go through a version of this every few years," he said. 

During the storm Tuesday, June 3, Pittack said, the Woodhouse stores' first priority was sheltering vehicles that had been bought and were waiting for delivery. Pittack said the few that sustained damage will be replaced. The group is holding a "hail sale" to move affected vehicles off the lots. He said the storm could be a benefit in the long run, speeding up sales. 

"Adjusters were here this morning getting everything ready to roll," he said the day after the storm. "The information broke on local news last night. ... People have been crawling all over the lots." 

Woodhouse has been communicating with customers about the storm damage and sale via Twitter since it assessed the damage. 

Pittack said it will be a greater challenge to deal with the influx of demand than the hail itself, calling the next few days a "track meet." He added that the other major concern was the safety of Woodhouse employees, many of whom had their personal vehicles and homes damaged by the storm. 

Sid Dillon Chevrolet in Blair had damage on almost all 800 of its vehicles. Jim Nelson, the dealership's general manager, said the hail blew out the windows and sunroofs of most of the cars. 

He said: "It looks like bowling balls fell out of the sky when you see some of the cars."

Nora Naughton contributed to this report.

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