A wicked winter storm wreaked havoc on the country this past weekend, causing several barns to collapse under the intense pressure of heavy snow.
Issuing a blizzard warning for more than 20 counties in the state of Wisconsin on Sunday, the National Weather Service reported widespread power outages and whiteout conditions throughout most of the day.
Dutch Dairy LLC located in Thorp, Wisconsin, experienced some of the worst weather conditions, including 55 miles per hour wind gusts and nearly a foot of snow.
Sending out an S.O.S to the farming community, Amy Penterman posted this message on her Facebook page after discovering a portion of her family’s freestall barn had collapsed:
Fortunately, no one was injured during the frightening event and only three animals were said to have minor injuries. “The good Lord was watching over our farm and employees today.” Penterman wrote. “Somehow the roof collapse missed the pen full of 100 cows.”
Huntsinger Farm Inc. located in Eau Claire, Wisconsin also experienced structure damage after heavy snow caused their 184-foot barn to cave in. Housing mostly machinery, the roof of the building landed on top of several tractors and harvesting equipment.
“It's an expense we don't look forward to,” said Farm manager Ken Traaseth in an interview with WEAU News. “I mean insurance is not going to cover 100% of it either the equipment, or the tractors, the building either way we still have to come up with the money to foot the bill.”
Although the damage to the structure is significant, the outcome could have been much worse.
“I think most of it is salvageable. We've got a truck in there that's got some roof damage on it. A tractor that's got some roof damage, but I think with some tender loving care we'll get it back up and running again,” Traaseth said.
In other parts of the country, similar stories are being told.
Pushlar Farms in Cazenovia, New York had the roof tore off of their 200-cow facility. Experiencing nearly 50 mph winds, the sides of the family's freestall barn were bent along with the trusses on the structure as well, according to Local SYR News. Thankfully, no animals or employees were harmed.
In an interview with Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR), Brian Holmes, a retired agricultural engineer for the University of Wisconsin-Extension discussed how the harsh winter weather the state has experienced this year is affecting farm structures.
“Farm buildings tend to be older and house moist environments thanks to livestock,” Holmes told WPR. “Those two factors can also compromise the strength of a structure.”
When comparing types of winter precipitation, fresh, fluffy snow can weigh as little as 3 lb. per square foot compared with 21 lb. for wet, heavy snow, the Federal Emergency Management Agency says in the Snow Load Safety Guide. Ice weighs even more coming in at 57 lb. a square foot. When considering the size of most farm buildings, it’s easy to see how the weight of snow and ice can add up to dangerous sums fast.
Holmes also told WPR that winter weather will likely become even more destructive as spring nears and snow becomes wetter and heavier.
For more on winter farm safety, read: