Roofs crushed under snow (video)

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Several Rimbey area dairy producers are cleaning up after their barns collapsed under dead weight of heavy snow.

Heini Hehli, who lives on a farm 11 km northeast of Rimbey, said his 14-year-old dairy wood barn with a metal roof collapsed sometime Sunday night. The whole middle section fell in where the cows normally feed.

Some of his 100 cattle died. It could have been a lot worse, Hehli said.

He believes the building caved in due to too much snow.

“We knew there was snow on the buildings, but we’ve had this amount of snow before,” Hehli said. “The way it blows around, there probably wasn’t much on the west side. It’s that uneven load that really puts the pressure on the building.”

Since the incident, Hehli and some neighbours created a space in the hay shed for the cattle. The milking continues in the barn.

Hehli has insurance so it’s hoped the building can be rebuilt soon. It had been built according to proper building codes, he added.

Jan Slomp, who farms just west of Rimbey, also believes wind-swept snow that gathered on the metal roof of his barn caused a large portion of the 23-year-old structure to collapse early Friday morning.

He said there is a 5,000-square-foot hole in the roof of the building.

“The way these roofs are constructed, if one goes it pulls it like a domino,” he said, adding that the building was up to code.

Fifty-five cows were under the roof when it caved in and most of them are covered in scratches. Slomp is just thankful they all survived.

Neighbours helped clear the rubble so the milking area can be accessed. They also assisted in securing and insolating the structure.

Business is carrying on as the milking and feeding areas were not affected in the collapse.

Slomp, however, is upset that he’ll have to find a way to pay to repair the structure. His insurance company has said they will not cover the damages that were caused by a mix of wind and snow.

Rimbey fire chief John Weisgerber was among a crew that attended a barn collapse west of Rimbey on Tuesday at about 4:30 a.m. The firefighters cut holes so they could rescue about 70 cattle. At least several animals perished because they had been standing where the building fell in.

The firefighters were on hand for several hours, sometimes trudging through deep snow.

All of these incidents happened in Ponoka County. An agricultural representative in Lacombe County said he hadn’t heard of any similar cases.

Ben Adams, office manager with Nor-Ag Ltd., an agricultural-based equipment supply company in Red Deer, said modern barns are built with good engineering practices and building codes. There are standards to follow, he said.

David Jaimeson, a project manager with General Roofing Systems based in Calgary, said barns and quonset huts have roofs that are generally less steep than newer houses and because of this they accumulate more snow.

He said business has been relatively quiet in Red Deer for rooftop clearing of snow, compared with the 100 to 200 calls a day in Edmonton where the snow load has been extreme.

Mark Hunter, residential division manager for Cooper Roofing and Exteriors, said they’ve received four to five calls in the last week so it hasn’t been busy. One emergency call involved crews dealing with snow overhanging on a building downtown.

“They had chunks of snow fall down and it’s a real danger,” Hunter said. “I’ve looked around and seen quite a bunch of snow overhanging roofs right now.”

The main problem with lots of snow on roofs is that ice damming can form, Hunter said.

“If the snow melts and it comes down to the unheated section like the soffiting, it can create an ice dam,” he said. “It backs up under the shingles and can create leakage. If we get these plus-temperatures coming up, I could see potential problems of people having ice dams and leakage. We’ll probably get a few calls about it.”

This dripping can occur on the outside of walls or on the inside around doors.


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