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Mt. Pleasant Twp. silo slowly succumbs to gravity

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Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2011

Blaine Hutter said he thought he had seen it all in his lifetime as a farmer.

Until Tuesday.

The Mt. Pleasant Township man was among the dozens of spectators waiting to see if an 80-foot silo would topple over, triggering a domino effect with three more silos and a barn on the 400-acre dairy farm just outside Kecksburg.

Hutter said that as of late last night, a crew from an Irwin wrecking company was on the scene slowly dismantling the damaged silo. Hutter said he would have to wait until daybreak today to assess the damage.

"The top third is down," Hutter said just before 10 o'clock last night. He said the steel bands that helped hold the silo together were being removed one at a time, allowing the concrete block-structure to collapse piece-by-piece. Personnel from Kecksburg and Mt. Pleasant firefighters were on hand to lend support.

Hutter said the adjacent silo that had been providing support was damaged, as was a barn roof that he said sustained "considerable" damage by falling debris.

"We'll clean up the mess and go from there," he said.

Earlier in the evening, the personable Hutter managed to see the lighter side of the dilemma. "I've never seen anything like this," he said. Then, with a grin, he added: "Milk production will be down tomorrow."

The scene was eerie, as a concrete silo, filled to capacity just a day earlier, slowly began to lean until it came to rest against a metal silo just 5 feet away. The concrete structure, which Hutter said was built in 1992 from concrete blocks in a manner "like putting Legos together," contained an estimated 630 tons of corn silage.

Hutter likened the occasional sound of crunching metal on the adjacent silo to "crushing a pop can."

In this case, the "pop can" is a 25-by-60-foot silo that is half filled with feed and precariously supporting the 14-year-old concrete silo, which was constructed from a series of concrete blocks and bands of support steel. Two more silos complete the set of four which, at some point, could be damaged or destroyed should the concrete silo topple.

The drama started at about 3 p.m., when Hutter's nephew, Aaron, was operating a machine to unload feed for the farm's 100 dairy cows. Working toward the top of the silo, Aaron Hutter wasted no time evacuating when he felt the structure shift.

Blaine Hutter said before his nephew could explain to him what happened, "I could tell that something was wrong by the look on his face."

Within an hour, the concrete structure shifted at least 5 feet and struck the one next to it. Blaine Hutter estimated the concrete silo was "15 feet off center," but he said he doesn't know the cause.

The 100 head of cattle were moved out of harm's way, and then the waiting game began.

Blaine Hutter said farming was pretty much all he's ever wanted to do. "There's never a dull moment," he said. "It's in my blood."

The farm was started in 1951 by Hutter's parents, Gib and Jane. Today, Blaine and his brother, Dale, and his sons, Aaron and Alyn, operate the farm, which produces enough milk each day to fill a 7,000-pound tanker. They sell their milk to United Dairy of Uniontown.

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