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Snow collapses barns at local poultry farm

Published: Jan. 13, 2021 at 1:16 AM CST
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WEST, Texas (KWTX) - The effects of Sunday’s snowstorm are still being felt across the area.

A McLennan County poultry farmer says he’s out hundreds of thousands of dollars after several of his barns collapsed under the weight of the snow.

“That used to be about six feet higher,” Ken Smotherman said pointing to one of the barns he lost. “As the roof came down the sides came out, and it just kind of pancaked.”

The owner of Smotherman Farms, LTD, has ten barns, 50 feet by 600 feet, in West.

They housed turkeys for almost two decades.

“Well I used to have 10 of them, now I’ve got 7.5 of them,” said Smotherman. “I guess they just couldn’t handle the weight of the snow.”

From 2002 until late 2019, Smotherman was one of the premier turkey farms in the area, however, everything changed when Cargill decided to pack up shop.

“Cargill pulled out of Waco and the Waco office complex in November 2019, and they shut down all the farms,” said Smotherman. “And here we are a year later, we’re trying to find a use for them (the barns), so we’re growing some laying hens right now for retail market.”

Smotherman said each of the barns that fell would’ve housed about 15,000 turkeys inside at a time, however, they were empty due to the transition to chickens.

“If birds had been in there, that would have been pretty bad,” said Smotherman.

Luckily there was no loss of life, but the property damage alone is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, he says.

“Lots of damage, it’s probably $250,000 to $300,000 per barn,” said Smotherman.

Even though he says he had insurance on the buildings, Smotherman learned Tuesday he won’t be getting reimbursed for the loss.

“I had the insurance adjuster out here today, and they were insured, but evidently they don’t insure, in this part of Texas, for weight of snow collapse,” said Smotherman. “Make sure you take a look at ‘basic’ and ‘broad’ cause of loss--basic doesn’t cover snow damage, evidently.”

Smotherman can still use some of his newer barns to house future chickens, and if the business takes off, they will rebuild the barns they lost.

Until then, he says it’s going to be a pain to deal with the damaged buildings, but he’ll get by.

“All they’re good for now is scrap metal,” said Smotherman. “We’re going to have to hire some people to take them apart and haul them down to Lipsitz.”

Despite the extra cost and hassle, he says it could have been a lot worse.

“The electric power evidently had charged the buildings because it melted plastic curtains off, and it was still charged this morning when he (the insurance adjuster) was out here, so it was lucky we never touch the building because it probably would have killed us,” said Smotherman.

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