Severe weather affects all parts of farm country, but it was the 2020 derecho that swept across the Corn Belt which prompted a team of researchers to look specifically at grain bins.
Led by University of Nebraska-Lincoln research engineer Christine Wittich, the research team includes Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service economists Rebekka Dudensing, Dean McCorkle and Steven Klose, who is associate department head. Also included is Maria Watson, business and disaster recovery specialist, University of Florida.
“Recovery after a windstorm, like the 2020 derecho, is a multiyear process for many farmers,” Wittich says. “Based on early responses to surveys, common concerns included the availability of building materials and labor to begin reconstruction for their farm structures. This seems to be a major barrier toward recovery.”
In their preliminary findings, steel grain bins:
• Are vulnerable to high wind loads when not full. Very tall bins or bins that are highly exposed are particularly vulnerable to wind, especially on hilltops.
• May still fail even when full and sustain roof damage or tear off, and/or suffer from non-structural damage such as stair damage.
• With vertical stiffeners tend to perform significantly better during windstorms than those without.
Future plans include additional surveying of farm structure impacts. Researchers hope to eventually publish best practices for grain bin construction and for preparing grain bins for severe storms.