Jim DuBose, president of Forth Worth's Colonial Savings and Loan, was in a south Texas airport lounge last Saturday morning when he first saw his demolished headquarters.

"'Headline News' was on the TV, and they had a helicopter shot of the building," he said. "I mean, of all the damaged buildings they focused on Colonial. I had heard it was bad, but I never thought it was completely destroyed.

"It was not a comfortable moment for me."

What may have been the worst hailstorm in U.S. history had struck the night before. Baseball-size hailstones piled up two feet deep. Twenty were people killed in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and hundreds injured.

Only six Colonial employees were on-site when the storm hit, and they quickly took cover. Mr. DuBose said they watched as the hail piled up. Then rain began to hit the ice, causing a freakish fog "so thick you couldn't see your feet."

"We have three one-story buildings on the campus constructed of tiles," Mr. DuBose said. "Well, those just looked like Swiss cheese. The storm just opened gaping holes in the structure. You can't believe it was a functioning building just one day before."

The three buildings total 60,000 square feet and house 173 employees. The main building, housing all of Colonial's computerized loan servicing records for $5.2 billion in mortgage loans, was nearly leveled.

Amazingly, the $513 million-asset thrift didn't skip a beat, thanks to a meticulously mapped out disaster recovery plan and a staff that worked nonstop all weekend getting the systems up and running for Monday morning. Customers felt zero impact, Mr. DuBose said, and when employees went into work at the thrift's 15 loan origination offices around the country they didn't even have an inkling that their headquarters didn't exist anymore.

Mr. DuBose said the servicing records, on tape, were immediately transferred to a prearranged mainframe supplier. The PC system and wide area network for loan origination was almost immediately recovered and set up in the basement of an another headquarters building that had survived the meteorological drubbing.

Mr. DuBose estimated the cost to rebuild the structures, not including the equipment and other items damaged or destroyed, would run between $2.5 million and $3 million.

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