Barn owners warned about threat from snow

Warnings have been issued to farmers after several snow-loaded barns have collapsed this winter.

Warnings have been issued to farmers after several snow-loaded barns have collapsed this winter.

Alberta Farm Animal Care Association issued a notice to Alberta livestock producers about the potential for roof collapses.

Brad Andres, manager of the Emergency Program at Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, says in a release issued by the association that conditions are similar to 2011-12, a year when a number of barns collapsed.

“The key thing is to keep an eye on the amount of snow that is sitting on top of the roofs, especially if we’ve had a melt and some rain. That adds moisture to the content — it builds up weight very quickly,” he says.

Barn owners are encouraged to get the snow off their roofs in a safe manner.

Those who are concerned about the strength of their barn and ability to handle snow load should consult a structural engineer.

There have been several roof collapses and a near miss in Central Alberta in the last few weeks.

In December, a Westerner Park vinyl tent roof came crashing down because of its heavy load. Earlier in the month, heavy snow caused two barn collapses in Red Deer and Lacombe Counties.

Last Monday, a dairy barn north of Rocky Mountain House collapsed killing a number of cows. Insurers are also warning rural clients about the risks.

Kevin Callbeck, underwriter development manager at The Co-operators, said farm and commercial clients in the central part of the province received an auto-dial message about snow loading dangers and mass emails were also sent out to clients north of Calgary.

The insurer also bought radio time to air safety messages.

The company’s insurance advisors are also filled in on any trends that are emerging.

“We make all our advisors aware of the issues because we start to see them first,” said Callbeck, who is based in Calgary. “They can get the benefit of all that knowledge and they can share that with their clients.”

Those who need to clear snow off roofs should get professionals. Roofs may be unstable or slippery and the company doesn’t want to expose clients to unnecessary risk.

Barns are more susceptible to roof collapse because of the spans and designs involved.

One sign of problems is when small gaps appear in barn roof panels.

Additions to barns can also lead to problems.

“When you get multiple and intersecting roof lines, in the valleys, that’s where you typically see a lot of the build-up of snow.”

Typically, barns are eligible for snow damage coverage under standard policies. But not all clients take that coverage, and there could be other construction issues involved.

The risk to homes is more likely from ice damming that drives water up under shingles. Again, that kind of damage is usually eligible for coverage.

Callbeck said it’s likely that snow damage claims are up this year but he did not have specific numbers so far.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

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