HOULTON – Though Aroostook County residents escaped the ice storm that paralyzed much of the rest of Maine, they were unable to escape its effects, especially in southern parts of the County.
The National Weather Service office in Caribou reported Sunday, Jan. 18, that more than 75 inches of snow have fallen in the region so far this season, compared with a normal snowfall of about 66 inches. Forty-one inches of snow are on the ground at Caribou.
In Houlton, weather observers at the airport have recorded 56 inches of snow on the ground, including more than a foot of ice pellets that fell during the last storm.
The heavy pellets, on top of what had fallen already, caused problems for homeowners and farmers who have been scrambling to shovel off their roofs before more accumulates.
Along Route 1 between Houlton and Mars Hill on Saturday, Jan. 18, scores of people could be seen clearing off trailer roofs, porches and potato packing sheds.
For some, it was too late. In Mars Hill, parts of the roofs of two metal buildings, including a potato house, reportedly collapsed. In Houlton, Cary and Terry Hill lost part of their barn.
According to Cary Hill’s brother Craig, a section of the main barn over the milking parlor and milk room collapsed under the weight of the snow at about 3:30 p.m. on Jan. 1 The area that collapsed was used to store hay, he said.
Hill said his brother had cleared off part of the roof but did not have time to do the rest before the collapse.
The collapse broke power lines in the barn, which delayed the milking of Hill’s 65 dairy cows by hours. Craig Hill said milking was finally completed at 1:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 17, after power was restored.
According to Chad Toby, who works for the Hills, the collapse sounded like two loud bangs. Toby said he was headed toward the barn from feeding horses in another building when the roof let go.
“I heard a bang and then I heard another bang, and ice came shattering off the roof,” he said, while getting ready to help with the morning milking.
He said Cary Hill was coming out of the milk room door just as part of the front wall overhead started to fall.
“I hollered, Cary, get out of there,”‘ said Toby.
Gesturing with his hands, he showed how the section of collapsed wall missed Hill by only a few feet.
Despite the collapse, no one was hurt, and Hill was busy milking again the next morning. The only damage to the milkiystem occurred when a large beam crashed through the floor and broke off a section of plastic pipe. The pipe was easily repaired.
“There is a God,” Hill said with a smile, as he hooked up cows to the milking machine.
Meanwhile, other family members and friends were busy shoring up the ceiling over the milk room so that it would not collapse and destroy the milking system.
The Hills are insured, but as of Saturday afternoon, Jan. 17, they still had no estimate of the damage. Craig Hill speculated that it could run to more than $25,000.