Snow causes roof of barn to fall, killing 200 cows Football field-sized hole is left in building designed to withstand such weight

Blizzard Of 1996

January 10, 1996|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,SUN STAFF

NEW MIDWAY -- Glenn Eaves stood gazing yesterday as snow fell through a hole the size of a football field in the roof of his new dairy barn -- a building designed to withstand heavy snow.

Outside, workers with front-end loaders removed debris. Others dragged the remains of more than 200 Holstein cows killed early Monday morning when the roof of the 600-foot-long barn gave way under a record 40 inches of snow.

"We can contend with the storms, but I've never seen anything like" this, said Mr. Eaves, 60, who runs one of the largest dairy farms in Maryland.

"Cows on the east side of the barn were killed immediately. Some were trapped for 15 hours. It was an awful sight. Some of the cows were damaged so bad we had to put them to sleep. When the roof started collapsing, two-by-fours came down and went through one side of the cows and came out the other," he said.

The dead cows will be taken to a rendering plant in Winchester, Va., where their remains will be turned into fertilizer and other products.

Mr. Eaves plans to salvage therest of the barn to provide shelter for some of his 4,600 cows.

Heavy snow also caused the roof of a 100-by-60-foot shed to collapse at another Frederick County dairy farm.

Jesse and Catherine Burall, who milk about 125 cows on a 250-acre farm near New Market, say about 25 cows were killed when the tin roof collapsed sometime Sunday night.

They estimate the loss at about $100,000.

"Thank God it didn't happen when my grandson was in the barn doing the bedding," Mrs. Burall said yesterday. "It's a terrible tragedy, but whatever we lost, the cows, the roof -- they can be replaced. But you can't replace human lives. We're thankful nobody was hurt."

About 1,100 cows were in Mr. Eaves' barn when the metal roof began collapsing about 11 p.m. Sunday. Mr. Eaves and his wife had just gone to bed when his wife thought she heard a big crash.

"We milk around the clock. One of the workers came up to the house and said part of the roof collapsed," Mr. Eaves recalled.

Another section of the barn collapsed about 2 a.m. Rescue workers spent the night trying to free cows, remove debris and stabilize the roof. Blizzard conditions prevented workers from keeping an accurate count of the number of cows being pulled from the barn, Mr. Eaves said.

"Snow was drifting, covering the cows as fast we could find them," he said. "The snow blew around so much there was no way we could get a reasonable count," he said.

Heavy snow also caused the partial collapse of another barn roof at the same farm, one mile north of Woodsboro, about 3:40 p.m. Mr. Eaves said about 600 cows were in that barn but none were killed.

Mr. Eaves was fearful additional snow might cause other portions of the barn roof to collapse.

His milking operations have continued, though Mr. Eaves concedes his cows are stressed by the weather and noise from front-end loaders and other equipment. He estimates his milk production is down about 40 percent.

He'll buy more cows and repair the barn roof as soon as possible. Insurance will provide compensation for the dead cows, and Agway, the barn's manufacturer, has told Mr. Eaves it will cover the cost of rebuilding.

"We pause a little but you got to clean up and move on. You can't let it stop you," he said.

John Butler, field services director of the Maryland Farm Bureau, a non-profit group that represents about 14,800 farming and rural families, said the loss of cows at Mr. Eaves' farm was unusually high.

"During the winter we had all the ice, we had some collapses, and farms lost considerable numbers of animals," he said. "But to lose about 200 animals, that's a pretty major catastrophe. That's a big loss."

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