With yet another winter storm expected to cut a large swath through the United States stretching from the Rocky Mountains to the East Coast over a four-day period beginning February 28, warehouse operators and other businesses with large areas of flat roof space are bracing themselves. And for good reason, as the last blast of winter’s wrath collapsed roofs and resulted in ammonia leaks at two coldstores in the Midwest.
A loading dock roof at the Cloverleaf Cold Storage facility in Napoleon, Ohio, gave way last week, causing a small but quickly contained release of ammonia that was immediately reported to all relevant federal, state, and local officials.
“Three persons were transported to the local hospital. Two have already been released with no reported injuries. The third is still under observation but is expected to be released soon,” according to a statement posted on the company’s website soon after the incident.
Damage to the facility was limited to a loading dock servicing a production room. The attached cold storage warehouse is undamaged and the limited release of ammonia did not occur within the warehouse itself. The loading dock servicing the warehouse was not damaged. Furthermore, Cloverleaf’s two dry food grade warehouses on the premises were unaffected by the incident.
As part of the company’s standard operating procedure, the refrigeration control system automatically cut off power to the facility, but temperatures within the warehouse remained well below minimum safety requirements prior to restoration of power to the refrigeration system. This was because the insulated warehouse is designed to hold temperatures for a number of days under summer ambient temperatures.
Headquartered in Sioux City, Iowa, and doing business in seven states, the company operates 15 cold storage warehouses, four food grade ambient temperature warehouses and four custom food processing facilities.
Elsewhere on the same day in the neighboring state of Indiana, a section of roof collapsed over the cooler section of the Performance Food Group’s (PFG) distribution warehouse in Kendallville. No injuries were reported.
It is believed that accumulated snow and ice caused the event, in which falling debris ruptured anhydrous ammonia pipes. The building was promptly evacuated, and two employees were reportedly treated at the scene while four others were transported to a nearby hospital after complaining of effects from ammonia fumes. They were looked after by medical personnel and released.