Crushing Snowfall Takes Toll on Barns

2/22/2014 7:00 AM
By Dennis Larison Editor

If you think you got socked by the heavy snowfall from last week’s nor’easter, you should talk with Lancaster Farming correspondent Marilyn Hershey of Ar Joy Farms in Cochranville, Pa.

Shortly after 1 a.m. on Valentine’s Day, she and her husband, Duane, were awakened by their employees and informed that the roof of their 60-by-276-foot freestall barn had collapsed under the snow load, trapping 15 to 20 of their Holstein cows.

About 70 of their 450 milking cows were in the parlor being milked at the time. Others were in a newer section of the barn that didn’t collapse or in stalls under portions of the roof that remained intact.

No humans were hurt and none of the cows were killed outright.

“We had to put down six or seven” after the collapse, Hershey said, “and we have had to ship a couple since then, and that will continue for a while.”

She said a 60-foot truss in the original 2001 section of the barn collapsed, causing the center of the roof to fall into the feed alley. The 2006 addition was not affected.

Although dramatic because of the scale of the damage, the Hersheys’ barn wasn’t the only farm building to collapse in the aftermath of the storm.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, there were numerous reports of collapsed buildings in the central and eastern parts of the state. Other instances were reported on into New Jersey.

The Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era reported two barn roof collapses in the southern end of Lancaster County on Feb. 14 and one collapse on Feb. 13.

Other newspapers and TV stations reported barn roofs collapsing near Pottstown and in Bucks County, Pa.

Still other barn collapses were reported to the Pennsylvania Department of Emergency Management in Mifflin, Berks, Montgomery and Northhampton counties, according to the state Ag Department.

The Star Ledger of Newark, N.J., reported several structures collapsing in Hunterdon County, N.J., including a dairy barn.

Lancaster Farming correspondent Joyce Bupp writes about the roof of the springing-cow pen on her family’s York County, Pa., farm partially collapsing in her “Farm Wife” column on Page B5 in this week’s issue.

Other correspondents report details about collapsed roofs in their areas later in this story.

Hershey said three of their neighbors responded to her farm’s calls for help right away, working to free the trapped animals and providing gates to create more space in another barn where the cows were moved — a three- to four-hour process in the middle of the night.

With daylight, troops of other farmers started to arrive to clear the barn of snow and fallen debris. Hershey estimates there were 75 to 100 people at the farm helping out.

“They kept coming,” she said. “It was just amazing.”

All of the cows were fed during the process and were back in the damaged barn by 6 or 7 p.m., Hershey said.

New trusses arrived Wednesday morning, and the roof may be back in place as early as this weekend if the weather cooperates.

McAlisterville Chicken House

Ed Neidig of McAlisterville, Juniata County, Pa., said he is grateful for all of the help he received this past weekend when his chicken house collapsed due to heavy snow and ice.

Neidig, whose chicken house is 44-by-360 feet, had snow and ice on the west end of the two-story structure. The roof came tumbling in last Saturday.

“It’s not so bad to clean off if it’s one story but two story — I wouldn’t ask anyone to climb up there,” he said.

The metal roof was bound to be slippery, he said. The structure was built in 1987 and housed 19,000 chickens. Only 150 to 200 birds were lost when the roof collapsed onto the top story.

“It split in the middle and came down in a point,” said Neidig, who raises chickens for Bell and Evans in Fredericksburg, Md.

He said 5,000 chickens were in the building where the point of the roof came down. He said 100 or more people joined in on the effort to move the chickens to safety — both into the bottom story of the chicken house and to another chicken house nearby.

A local church sent 50 people to help him, he said. No one was seriously hurt. Neidig said he slipped and fell in a small hole inside but suffered only minor bruises.

— Correspondent Tabitha Goodling

Bedford County Barn Collapse

A barn roof near Woodbury in Bedford County, Pa., collapsed the evening of Feb. 14. The farm’s owner, Norman Miller, was two-thirds of the way through milking when he heard the sound.

The barn was built in 1975.

According to a story in the Bedford Gazette, Miller’s wife, Linda, called for help, and it came by motor vehicle and bicycles as neighbors, friends and fellow farmers came.

This included the Southern Cove Fire Company.

Miller has 200 head of cattle, but not all were in the barn. Those that were trapped had to be cut free by volunteers who brought chain saws to cut up the mostly wooden material.

The fire company brought in a couple of skid steer loaders.

The young cattle were temporarily placed in an equipment building and then taken to a neighboring farm. None of the animals perished.

Miller plans to build a new barn and said he thought the damage would be covered by his insurance.

— Correspondent Linda Williams

Lancaster County Heifer Killed

A heifer was killed Feb. 14 when a roughly 16-by-30-foot roof on a lean-to style barn collapsed at 232 Old Dam Road in Bart Township, Lancaster County, Pa., according to Dave King, chief of the Bart Township Fire Company.

Firefighters were able to rescue another heifer, and about a dozen other cattle were unharmed, King said. That collapse was reported about 6:30 a.m.

Another similar-size lean-to barn roof collapsed on Creek Road in Sadsbury Township, trapping a horse, which firefighters were able to free, King said.

The collapses reported Feb. 14 followed the collapse of a roughly 100-foot-long roof section of a 500-foot-long hog barn in Martic Township midmorning of Feb. 13.

Firefighters moved about 300 hogs to another building at 1010 River Road, shored up other parts of the roof and cleared snow from it to prevent another collapse, said Richard Fuhrman, deputy chief of the Rawlinsville Volunteer Fire Company.

Fuhrman said he didn’t know if any hogs were killed in the collapse.

— Dan Nephin, Lancaster Newspapers

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