Mike Burk has been sitting at his desk since 7:45 a.m. in the morning. But the work isn’t getting any less. Quite the opposite.
“Last night at 10 p.m., we already had 108 referrals from insurance companies,” the president of Gene Burk Auto Glass, 2302 W. Lee, said. “Now, it’s well over 200.”
And this is in addition to the over 80 walk-ins he is taking care of on this Friday morning, the day after a big hail storm left Lawton with severe damage to power lines, buildings, roofs — and vehicles, and especially windshields. The demand for repair is so big that a line of around 15 people formed outside of Gene Burk Auto Glass, waiting to get inside to book an appointment. Average wait time: 20-25 minutes.
Among those waiting was Tamara Johnson and Joanna Hanna. While Johnson was rather lucky, having only a cracked windshield, the hail storm left Hanna’s vehicle with a completely busted windshield and over 60 dents, she said.
“It hailed crazy like hell,” said Hanna, who lives on the east side of Lawton. She recalled a transformer exploding and doors that were pulled out of a store.
The biggest task now is to repair the damage, and that’s where it starts getting tricky.
“There are too many cars damaged and not enough repair shops,” Hanna said.
“It will take months to get all the jobs done,” Shane Burk, the owner of Shane Burk Glass & Mirror of Lawton, 844 SE 1st, said. His shop was facing 400 different jobs as of Friday afternoon.
Although a single windshield replacement usually only takes between one and two hours, Burk expects repairs to last well into fall, simply due to the sheer amount of damaged vehicles.
The last time it was that bad, he said, was around 15 years ago. Over three years ago, in April 2020, a storm hit Elgin, and repairs took until September, Burk recalled.
The majority of the damage, he said, are windshields, with some damages on the rear and side windows. In the overwhelming number of cases, a simple chip repair is not possible. Due to the hail hitting too hard, a replacement of the entire windshield is usually necessary.
Because of the amount of work Lawton’s auto and glass repair shops are facing, some are importing special teams to get the job done.
“A hail team is coming down next week to have a drive through,” Jamie Bert from Gerber Collision & Repair, 1205 SW 2nd, said, similar to how they did it three years ago. Typically, she said, the shop had only a handful of jobs in general for collisions. But now, they have well over a 100 assignments.