Heavy Snow Causes Problems for Horse Owners

After experiencing her area's worst snowstorm since 1968, Beth Sandland of Sandy, Ore., was unable to visit her boarded horses for three weeks.

However, other horse owners have had to deal with a more serious side effect of winter weather: collapsed barn and arena roofs. Several structure collapses have been reported so far this winter.

Doug Haecherl of Structural Buildings in Becker, Minn., said the design of the building is crucial.

"We build according to the Minnesota state code," Haecherl said. "When it's an (agricultural) building, you aren't required to. Some builders don't build according to code."

Although codes vary between states, Minnesota requires a 35 pound per square foot snow load for roofs, as well as graded, machine stress-rated lumber for the horizontal timbers that support it. Builders should also follow state specifications for connections between each component and spacing between the supporting timbers.

"As long as the building is engineered to meet snow loads according to spec, there shouldn't be a problem," said Haecherl.

For existing buildings, use a snow rake or shovel to remove unusually heavy accumulations of snow to prevent collapse. Always use caution and work in pairs for safety.

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Jennifer Walker

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