Grain Bin Collapse: Searching For Answers

A retailer’s worst nightmare, last week’s grain bin collapse in Hillsboro, IA, is now in the cleanup stage. What happened?

According to the Burlington Hawk Eye, a large grain bin at Chem Gro of Hillsboro containing a reported 500,000 bushels of corn collapsed around 8 p.m. Nov. 20. The massive torrent of grain moved a neighboring house, knocking down the walls and roof of the home of Jesse and Jennifer Kellet, trapping the couple, along with their two children, inside. Rescuers were able to dig Jennifer and daughter Sheyanne, 9, out in a few minutes, but Jesse and Jordan, 11, were trapped for a few hours before being pulled out to safety. The rescuers used high-powered blowers to suck the corn from the house.

According to various newspaper and online reports, the grain bin had been built during the summer and was a cause of contention in the community. A neighbor confirmed that the Kellets had talked with an attorney about the bin’s close proximity to their property.

Harold Dyer, one of the owners of Chem Gro, told the Hawk Eye that removal of the spilled grain is continuing, even through snow flurries. A report from WQAD noted “there’s a mountain of corn worth more than $1.5 million dollars.”

Houghton, IA-based Chem Gro owns several grain elevators in the region. Dyer believes they have owned the Hillsboro facility for about 20 years and have not had other problems with grain bins.

He said company officials don’t have any clues why the bin fell, noting that it will be up to engineers to investigate the matter. “It’s very unusual for those bins to split like that,” he told the Hawk Eye. “I’ve never heard of it before.”

As of Monday (Nov. 26) afternoon, Jesse Kellett is in good condition with several lacerations, according to his wife. Doctors are concerned about severe cuts on his left foot.

Meanwhile, a Cedar Rapids salvage company hired by the grain elevator’s insurance company is cleaning up the spill. Dyer didn’t know how much corn has been removed since Monday’s spill. “The community has been helpful,” Dyer told the Hawk Eye newspaper. “The farmers in the area came in with their equipment that night and did a really good job. Considering everything, we’re getting along very well.”

The bin was manufactured and erected by Conrad American, whose parent company is Hawkeye Steel Co. in Houghton. Thomas Wenstrand, one of the company’s owners, declined to comment on the matter.

Dyer said Chem Gro officials aren’t sure if they will rebuild.”We’ll clean up first and make our plans from there,” he told the newspaper.

A number of factors could cause a grain bin to collapse, including a bin’s age, a manufacturer’s error, poor-quality concrete foundation or poor-quality steel, how the bin was loaded or unloaded, wind, and shifting soil under a foundation. According to Jerry Wille of Curry, Wille and Associates in Ames, IA, bin manufactures usually follow the standards of industry, which are set by the national engineering group. Those standards were upgraded in the late 1970s as grain bins got bigger and ways to load and unload them got faster.

“The thing that people tend to believe is that someone is out to make a buck and cut corners,” said Wille, an agricultural engineer and consultant for facilities associated with agriculture, including grain bins. “I’ve worked with a lot of contractors. If they know there is a problem, they will correct it. Nobody wants a failure.”

Grain doesn’t act like water when it’s being unloaded. The mass reacts different ways inside the bin’s confinement. “Bins are a living and breathing material. Pressures inside a bin change all the time,” Wille said. “We think of steel and concrete as stable. But everything is changing and moving around.”

(Sources include the Burlington Hawk Eye, WQAD, and The Associated Press)

Leave a Reply

Management Stories

Young Corn Field
StewardshipStudy: Ohio Farmers Doing ‘A Good Job Of Managing’ Phosphorus Levels
September 27, 2016
Leaders from Ohio’s largest grain farming organizations announced today that Ohio farmers are doing their part in effectively managing phosphorus Read More
Crop InputsLake Erie HAB Update: Phosphorus Soil Level Reduction Goal ‘Right on Track’
September 27, 2016
Leaders from Ohio’s largest grain farming organizations announced today that Ohio farmers are doing their part in effectively managing phosphorus Read More
StewardshipMonsanto Invests $1.6 Million In System To Quantify Greenhouse Gas Reductions
September 23, 2016
The USDA – Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) recently awarded the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) and its Soil Health Read More
Pipe rack
LegislationCourt Sides With Ag Retailers On PSM
September 23, 2016
The D.C. Court of Appeals has ruled the Occupational Safety and Health Administration violated the Occupational Safety and Health Act when Read More
Trending Articles
Corn Field
Eric SfiligojFacing Ag Industry Challenges
September 26, 2016
At the 2016 annual Mid America CropLife Association (MACA) meeting in September, a pair of crop protection company representatives discussed Read More
Bayer Monsanto
Crop InputsBayer-Monsanto Mega-Merger: 6 Things You Need To Know
September 14, 2016
Mega mergers have become almost routine in the agricultural industry. Right on the heels of Monday’s news that fertilizer giants Potash Read More
Potash Corp Agrium
Crop InputsAgrium, Potash Corp To Merge To Create $36 Billion Company
September 12, 2016
Canada’s Agrium Inc. and Potash Corp of Saskatchewan Inc. have agreed to combine in a deal that would create a Read More
Osage Co-op Elevator Osage, IA Finished Building
OpinionAre We Crazy?
September 8, 2016
At some point in the first few months of my employment here at CropLife® magazine, I started getting curious about Read More
ManagementMAGIE 2016 Highlights and Deere Anti-Trust
September 1, 2016
CropLife Editor Eric Sfiligoj discusses the recent Midwest AG Industries Exposition and the Department of Justice’s objection to John Deere Read More
ASMARK 2016 Retailers Live! Tour - CPS
CropLife 100CPS Acquires Texas Retail Operation
August 23, 2016
Crop Production Services (CPS) has acquired the assets of Larry’s Chemical and Spray, Inc., for an undisclosed amount in an Read More
Latest News
Young Corn Field
StewardshipStudy: Ohio Farmers Doing ‘A Good Job Of Managing…
September 27, 2016
Leaders from Ohio’s largest grain farming organizations announced today that Ohio farmers are doing their part in effectively managing phosphorus Read More
Crop InputsLake Erie HAB Update: Phosphorus Soil Level Reduction G…
September 27, 2016
Leaders from Ohio’s largest grain farming organizations announced today that Ohio farmers are doing their part in effectively managing phosphorus Read More
Growmark FS Outlet
Industry NewsGROWMARK To Purchase Suncor’s Share Of UPI
September 26, 2016
GROWMARK and Suncor have reached an agreement in which GROWMARK will purchase Suncor’s 50% interest in UPI, Inc. in Ontario, Read More
Corn Field
Eric SfiligojFacing Ag Industry Challenges
September 26, 2016
At the 2016 annual Mid America CropLife Association (MACA) meeting in September, a pair of crop protection company representatives discussed Read More
Syngenta Seedcare Institute
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Opens New North America Seedcare Institute In …
September 23, 2016
Syngenta unveiled its new Seedcare Institute in Stanton, MN, during a recent grand opening celebration. More than 150 industry leaders, Read More
StewardshipMonsanto Invests $1.6 Million In System To Quantify Gre…
September 23, 2016
The USDA – Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) recently awarded the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) and its Soil Health Read More
Pipe rack
LegislationCourt Sides With Ag Retailers On PSM
September 23, 2016
The D.C. Court of Appeals has ruled the Occupational Safety and Health Administration violated the Occupational Safety and Health Act when Read More
ManagementPacific Coast Fertilizer Announces Interest In Longview…
September 22, 2016
Pacific Coast Fertilizer LP (PCF) announced at the Cowlitz Economic Development Council board of directors meeting its interest in developing Read More
Young corn plants in soil
UncategorizedCool Planet Raises Additional $9 Million To Commerciali…
September 22, 2016
Cool Planet has announced the first close of a new financing round to commercialize the company’s Cool Terra Engineered Biocarbon Read More
Crop InputsJim Loar Promoted To President And CEO Of Cool Planet
September 22, 2016
In a move that reflects and reinforces the company’s commitment to the agricultural market, the Cool Planet board of directors Read More
BlendersNorth Dakota Coop Debuts Dry Fertilizer Plant
September 22, 2016
North Central Grain Cooperative has begun operations at a new dry fertilizer plant at its Rolla, ND, site. It is Read More
Crop InputsMonsanto, Bayer Officials Defend Proposed $66 Billion M…
September 21, 2016
Top officials for Monsanto and Bayer defended their proposed $66 billion merger before skeptical senators on Tuesday, insisting that the Read More
ManagementUpcoming Shows & Recent Events
September 19, 2016
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about upcoming trade shows and events and review the Mid America CropLife Association Read More
Industry NewsVerdesian Life Sciences Appoints New CEO
September 19, 2016
Verdesian Life Sciences, a plant health and nutrition company, today announced that its board of directors has named Kenneth M. Avery Read More
Corn
Crop InputsEPA Settles With Syngenta For Alleged Multi-Regional Pe…
September 19, 2016
The U.S. EPA has announced a multi-region settlement with Syngenta Crop Protection, LLC (Syngenta) in Greensboro, NC, for alleged violations of Read More
ManagementMerger Mania
September 16, 2016
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss this week’s mega-ag mergers of Bayer and Monsanto and Potash and Agrium. Read More
Monsanto sign
Crop InputsMonsanto Ends Up Being A Bargain For Bayer
September 16, 2016
History will say Bayer got a bargain in its $66 billion purchase of Monsanto, writes David Nicklaus, St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The Read More
Greg Musson, Gar Tootelian
CropLife 100California Ag Retailer Steps Up To Feed Families Affect…
September 16, 2016
GAR Tootelian, Inc. (GAR) in Reedley, CA, is challenging the Central Valley to help raise enough money and provide 525,000 meals Read More