Local Farms See Increased Risk
In addition to the standard potential for roof collapse after snowfall & ice buildup – many local farmers are at an increased risk. In just the last week, I have learned of two farms (no longer in full operation) that have had building collapses.
Barns Sit Empty
My father in-law’s family farm milked their last cow this summer; they were a century farm in 2004. It was a sad day for the family farm, but the years of hard labor had taken its toll on their bodies, the income wasn’t what it used to be, and it was time. Since this summer, they have sold all the Holsteins (dairy cows) and most of the equipment. There are a few head of beef there now, but not nearly the numbers they had before. The majority of the buildings now sit empty.
However, because the cattle aren’t in the barn to keep it warm(er), their body heat isn’t melting the snow on the roof like it had been. This, combined with the large amount of snow we have received already increase the potential for roof collapse.
An Unexpected Call
As we were driving to a holiday party last Friday night, we received a call. My father in-law had just gone outside to the dumpster when he heard a strange creaking sound, followed by a tremendous “whoosh” and the sound of crushing metal. My mother-in-law heard it from inside the house and thought it was the wind howling. Pitch-black, there was little that could be done.
After trekking down to the barn in the dark, he discovered a complete collapse of the freestall barn, with the exception of the lean-to on each side. He had thought (hoped) that the cattle and donkeys escaped, as he could see the herd up in the field. There was really no way to know the extent of the damage. All he could do at that point was to turn off the electricity to prevent further damage, and call it a night.
The following morning, he was able to do a headcount. We are fortunate – all heads are accounted for and no broken legs. All in all, it could be worse. Aside from rewiring the water tank and the debris clean-up, the only loss sustained was the building damage along with the hay bales that were stored in there.
What You Can Do
The losses of others can serve as a reminder to you. Think about those out-buildings which are no longer in use – there is a good chance that the change in “every-day use” may increase the risk of collapse. Winter hasn’t officially begun – and we will likely be seeing more snow in the coming months.
Our friends at RAM Mutual have shared some additional information on Building Collapse, as well as tips on how to safely remove snow. If you have a claim, be sure you document your loss with photos. Consider electrical dangers as well as collapse dangers prior to beginning any debris removal. Here is an article from February, 2019 regarding Roof Collapses as well.