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Please review a case sample below of our work – a slip and fall case.

Case prologue:

On January 7, 1999, at 5 PM a person slipped and fell on the sidewalk outside of their rental apartment. The apartment is located in a house, in upstate NY. The person fell just outside the side door. The person was injured and an ambulance took the person to an emergency room. The person is suing the landlord to recover costs related to the person’s injury. The person stated that it was the landlord’s negligence (not clearing the snow as agreed) that caused the person to fall. The landlord stated that the landlord routinely kept the sidewalk clear, but weather conditions made it difficult to keep up with the shoveling. Weather Medic, Inc. was retained as an expert meteorologist for the plaintiff. A complete report describing weather conditions from January 1, 1999 to January 15, 1999 follow, along with maps. No photographs were allowed in this case. Names and locations were changed to protect the innocent.

Introduction

The following meteorological analysis was requested by John Smith of the Law Offices of Smith and Smith. At the request of Mr. Smith, I have examined the past weather for the period of January 1999 in the upstate, NY area.

My main focus is on precipitation - specifically daily snow, frequency of the snow, snow depth, and liquid equivalent of the snow that has fallen. Winds for the days of January 3 through January 7, 1999 were examined as well as daily temperatures in a journal type of format.

Weather records examined include copies of official National Weather Service observations and COOP data from Climatological Data, New York January 1999 as well as Monthly Text Climate Summaries and F6 Monthly Data Summaries, and Lake Effect Storm Data for January 1999 obtained from the online web pages from the Buffalo Office of The National Weather Service. Also used were the National Climatic Data Center – Event Record Details for upstate, NY from January 1 through January 15, 1999. I also examined records from three weather stations, one located at the incident, one located north of the incident, and the other located east of the incident.

The three stations used in this report are:

  • Station 1, NY – Site of the incident.
  • Station 2, NY - located 4 to 5 Miles North East of the incident.
  • Station 3 -located seven miles East-South-East of Station 1, NY.

Enclosed at the end of this report (not shown) are photocopies of the January 1999 Station 1, 2 and 3 data and Newspaper articles.

It is my understanding that I am being consulted by Mr. Smith because a person slipped and fell and was injured on the sidewalk outside the person’s rental apartment on January 7, 1999 at 5 p.m. in Station 1, NY. The injured person stated the snow was not cleared by the landlord as agreed, the landlord stated that he routinely kept the sidewalk clear, but weather conditions made it difficult to keep up with the snow shoveling.

In this report I will prove the landlord had an opportunity to have the sidewalk properly shoveled on January 7, 1999 at 5 p.m., the time of the incident.

I have relied on the above weather data as well as my 29 years of experience as a member of the Western New York Chapter of The American Meteorological Society, and winner of the 2008 John Campanius Holm Award as one of the top twenty Cooperative Weather Observers in the United States of America to arrive at the conclusions below.

My report of results of the weather conditions for Station 1, NY for January 1999 and appropriate conclusions follow.

Conventions Used in this Report

  • “Ice Pellets” was referred to as “Sleet” in this report. “Freezing Rain” was referred to as “Glaze” in this report.
  • Daily Snow Depth was measured at 5 p.m. in Station 1, 7 a.m. in Station 2, and 11:59 p.m. in Station 3.
  • All temperatures are given in degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Water Equivalent is the amount of melted water in the snow. A water equivalent ratio of 10 inches snow equals 1 inch of water is a “normal snow”. Snow with water equivalents greater than this 10 to 1 ratio are lighter than normal – thus easier to shovel; a snow/water equivalent less than a 10 to 1 are heavier than normal and harder to shovel.

Station 1 station is a personal weather station. I personally spoke for one hour on the telephone with the station operator whom is also President of the Western New York Chapter of The American Meteorological Society. The observer at Station 1 is NOAA Certified. The equipment used at Station 1 is The Davis Weather Wizard for wind data – all other weather data is obtained from a LaCrosse Weather Station.

  • Station 1 leaves the column blank for no precipitation.
  • Station 3 station does not measure wind gusts.
  • A “T” in the liquid equivalent precipitation column indicates an amount under 0.01 inches – not measurable.
  • A “T” in the Snow/Ice column indicates less than 0.1 fell – not measurable.
  • A “T” in the Snow/Ice on the Ground, Snow Depth column indicates snow and/or ice depth under 0.5 inches, but greater than 0 inches.

Weather Analysis of January 1999 (Overview)

  • Third snowiest in 115 years of record keeping – 65.1 inches; fourth greatest snowfall total for any month on record.
  • Harshest winter conditions seen in the station area in the last 20 years.
  • First half of the month near constant snow and below normal temperatures – Snowfall was 60.5 inches – normal amount for the entire month of January is 25.7 inches, one large snowfall of over a foot – seven days with four inches or more falling. Temperatures averaged 14 – normal is 24.
  • Snowpack at mid month of 25-30 inches, the greatest since the winter of 1976-1977 brings the area to a standstill.
  • Very mild and dry weather conditions with little snowfall the last two weeks.
  • Most of huge snowpack melted away by January 24.
  • Monthly snowfall totals: Station 1 – 50.3 inches, Station 2 – 60.2 inches, Station 3 – 48.7 inches.
  • Greatest snowfall in a twenty four hour period for all stations occurred from January 3 through 4: Station 1 – 13.3 inches, Station 2 – 14.1 inches, Station 3 – 13.4 inches.

January 2, 1999

The period of hazardous weather began on January 2. The temperatures on January 1 and 2 were bitterly cold – the ground was frozen solid.

At 5 p.m. Station 1 reported a T for snow depth, Station 2 and Station 3 had one inch of snow depth as the first in a series of winter storms moved into the area by 5:30 p.m. with snow reported in both Station 2 and Station 3 which continued through the early evening. The snow was heaviest in Station 3 between 7 to 7:30 p.m. before changing to sleet and then to a wintry mix of sleet/glaze by 11:59 p.m. Station 1 also reported sleet in the evening; Station 2 reported sleet and glaze by 10 p.m. Daily Snow/Ice was 2.3 inches in Station 1, 1.7 inches in Station 2, and 2.5 inches in Station 3. Snow/water equivalents were 11.0 to 1 in Station 1, 3.7 to 1 in Station 2, and 10.0 to 1 in Station 3. Temperatures were below freezing in all three locations for the entire day. Station 1 had a high temperature of 21 and a low temperature of 8. Station 2 had a maximum temperature of 20 and a minimum temperature of 2. Station 3 had a maximum temperature of 18 and a minimum temperature of 1.

January 3, 1999

The day began with 2 inches of snow depth in Station 1 and Station 2, 3 inches snow depth in Station 3. Station 1 reported sleet and glaze - Hoover Avenue lost electric power for four hours Sunday morning due to the build up of ice. Station 2 had a sleet and glaze mix from Midnight through 5 to 6 a.m. Station 3 noted sleet at Midnight which changed to glaze overnight. All three stations warmed up above freezing overnight with light rain reported in Station 1, Station 2, and Station 3 by the mid morning.

All three stations reported identical high temperatures of 39 and low temperatures of 18. Maximum temperatures peaked at 39 at 10 a.m. at Station 2 and Station 3 before falling below freezing by noon. Station 3 was 31 at noon, Station 2 29 by 1 p.m. This brief warm-up would have begun to melt the wintry mix on the ground, however its short duration would have left a slushy mix that would have frozen into an icy rock hard brick if not shoveled before noon on January 3.

Winds turned SW by afternoon and Lake Effect Snow squalls set up for the remainder of the day with Station 2 reporting light snow at 1 p.m. and Station 3 reporting light snow at 1:45 p.m..

The snow squalls became intense north of Station 2 with Station 3 reporting intense snow squalls with whiteouts from 7:30 p.m. through 11:59 p.m. Heavy blowing and drifting of snow was observed in the evening with visibilities of 50 to 100 feet at times. Station 2 also had blowing snow by 10 p.m... The police advised no unnecessary travel.

Daily Snow/Ice totals were 1.8 inches in Station 1, 2.6 inches in Station 2, and 4.2 inches in Station 3.

Snow Depths were 2 inches of solid ice in Station 1 (5 p.m.), 4 inches at Station 2, and 6 inches at Station 3.

Snow/water equivalents were 2.3 to 1 in Station 1, 3.8 to 1 in Station 2, and 2.4 to 1 in Station 3 (before the snow squall).

Peak wind gusts of 52 miles per hour from the SW were recorded in Station 1, and 44 miles per hour from the SW in Station 2. Station 2 had a two minute sustained wind of 33 miles per hour from the SW.

Storm

January 4, 1999

The day started out with an intense 10 mile wide Lake Erie Effect Snow Squall effecting Southern Niagara and Northern Erie Counties before shifting southward overnight.

Heavy snow and blowing snow was observed midnight through 5 a.m. in Station 3, midnight through 8 a.m. in Station 1, and before dawn through the mid morning in Station 2. (The snow was heaviest from 6:30 a.m. through 7:45 a.m. at The Station 2 Airport). Station 3 had its greatest 24 hour snowfall in 4 years – 1 day, and its greatest snow depth in 2 years – 359 days.

It was sunny/clear by 9 a.m. in Station 3, and by 1 p.m. in Station 2. Station 1 also reported sun after the snow squall with no precipitation recorded at any station after the snow squall drifted southwards.

The Station 2 airport was closed from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Hundreds of businesses were closed including Metro Bus, U.S. Postal Service, and State Colleges. Most streets were passable by noon. Road crews reported the biggest problem was ice on the roads, (all from Saturday night and Sunday morning).

Greatest snowfall in a twenty four hour period for all stations occurred from January 3 through 4: Station 1 – 13.3 inches, Station 2 – 14.1 inches, Station 3 – 13.4 inches.

Snow Depths were 13 inches in Station 1 and Station 3, and 11 inches at Station 2, (reading taken at 7 a.m. during snow squall).

Snow/water equivalents were 23.0 to 1 in Station 1, 16.5 to 1 in Station 2, and 23.9 to 1 in Station 3.

Peak wind gusts of 48 miles per hour from the SW were recorded in Station 1, and 44 miles per hour from the SW in Station 2. Station 2 had a two minute sustained wind of 32 miles per hour from the SW.

Temperatures were below freezing in all three locations for the entire day. Station 1 had a high temperature of 21 and a low temperature of 14. Station 2 had a maximum temperature of 20 and a minimum temperature of 13. Station 3 had a maximum temperature of 21 and a minimum temperature of 11.

January 5, 1999

The same snow squall responsible for the January 3-4 snow event was stalled just a few miles south of the Station 2 Airport in the early morning before moving north across the city of Station 2 and its northern suburbs in the afternoon.

Station 2 was overcast all day with light snow showers reported after 3 a.m. which continued off and on until 1 p.m. The intensity of the snow picked up after 1 p.m. with moderate snow reported by 4 p.m. The snow stopped before 8 p.m., however blowing snow was reported in the evening.

Station 1 and Station 3 were clear and sunny in the a.m.

Station 1 reported afternoon snow. Station 3 was sunny through 2 p.m. with moderate Lake Effect Snow Showers reported from 2 p.m. through 9 p.m. Station 1 and Station 3 reported no blowing snow.

It was cloudy/overcast in all stations after the snow squall passed northward through the area.

Daily Snow/Ice totals were 5.0 inches in Station 1, 4.3 inches in Station 2, and 2.8 inches in Station 3.

Snow Depths were 16 inches in Station 1 and 14 inches at Station 2 and Station 3.

Snow/water equivalents of the snow squall were 20.0 to 1 in Station 1, 61.4 to 1 in Station 2, and 46.7 to 1 in Station 3.

Peak wind gusts of 28 miles per hour from the SW were recorded in Station 1, and 28 miles per hour from the South in Station 2. Station 2 had a two minute sustained wind of 23 miles per hour from the SSW.

Temperatures were below freezing in all three locations for the entire day. Station 1 had a high temperature of 19 and a low temperature of 12. Station 2 had a maximum temperature of 17 and a minimum temperature of 6. Station 3 had a maximum temperature of 21 and a minimum temperature of 8.

January 6, 1999

The day started out cloudy at Station 1, Station 2, and Station 3. Light snow developed in Station 2 and Station 3 before 8 a.m. and continued through 5:30 p.m. in Station 3 and 7 p.m. in Station 2.

An intense Lake Effect Snow squall was noted in Station 3 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. with whiteouts, heavy blowing snow, and visibilities of 100 feet at times. Station 1 reported snow and blowing snow. Station 2 reported moderate snow and blowing snow by 7 p.m. The snow band shifted southward and ended by 8 p.m. in Station 3 and by 10 p.m. in Station 2. Skies were cloudy the remainder of the day in Station 2, and became clear by the late evening in Station 3.

Daily Snow/Ice totals were 2.5 inches in Station 1, 4.1 inches in Station 2, and 3.7 inches in Station 3.

Snow Depths were 18 inches in Station 1 and 13 inches at Station 2 and 16 inches in Station 3.

Snow/water equivalents of the snow squall were 17.9 to 1 in Station 1, 20.5 to 1 in Station 2, and 17.6 to 1 in Station 3.

Peak wind gusts of 43 miles per hour from the SW were recorded in Station 1, and 34 miles per hour from the West in Station 2. Station 2 had a two minute sustained wind of 29 miles per hour from the SSW.

Temperatures were below freezing in all three locations for the entire day. Station 1 had a high temperature of 28 and a low temperature of 13. Station 2 had a maximum temperature of 27 and a minimum temperature of 6. Station 3 had a maximum temperature of 28 and a minimum temperature of 10.

Storm

January 7, 1999 (Date of Incident)

First day of the new year without any snow at all three stations.

Only day without snow at all three stations from January 1 through 15, 1999.

Station 1 and Station 3 were mostly sunny and clear the entire day. Station 2 reported clouds in the morning but became mostly sunny by 10 a.m. through the remainder of the day.

Station 1 reported no blowing snow. Station 2 reported blowing snow at 1 p.m. Station 3 reported blowing snow from midnight through the mid afternoon.

Snow Depths were 17 inches in Station 1 and 13 inches at Station 2 and Station 3.

Peak wind gusts of 37 miles per hour from the West were recorded in Station 1 and Station 2. Station 2 had a two minute sustained wind of 28 miles per hour from the West.

Temperatures were below freezing in all three locations for the entire day. Station 1, Station 2 and Station 3 had a maximum temperature of 17. Minimum temperature was 11 at Station 1, 10 at Station 2, and 9 at Station 3.

January 8 through 15, 1999

Numerous additional daily snows, lake effect snows, and winter storms created snow depths by January 15 of 28 inches in Station 1, 30 inches at Station 2 and 26 inches in Station 3.

I discovered two newspaper articles from the local newspaper that I feel obligated to share with you – found at the end of this report, not shown.

The first article dated Wednesday, January 13, 1999 shows a picture taken in the city of Station 1 showing a mother and her two children walking in the street with the caption “no sidewalk in sight”.

The second article is dated on Thursday, January 14, 1999 titles “Danger on the streets” talks about how Station 1 City Supervisor publically said he is not enforcing the cities sidewalk clearing law and does not want to be in a position of ordering people to shovel snow. I highlighted it in yellow for you.

Conclusion

It can be stated with a reasonable degree of meteorological certainty that The day of January 7, 1999 in Station 1, NY featured sunny skies and no snow.

An opportunity to shovel snow can be made for the time periods from:

  • Daybreak through noon on January 3, 1999.
  • Late morning through the remainder of the day on January 4, 1999.
  • Morning hours of January 5, 1999.
  • Entire day of January 7, 1999.

People that did not clear the two inches of ice build up on Sunday morning during the brief period of above freezing temperatures found the ice refrozen and covered with snow. In order to get down to the pavement, a thick coating of ice had to be chopped away.

People that did not chop the ice but cleared just the snow produced very icy and hazardous walking conditions.

Residents who did clear the two inches of ice build up on Sunday morning during the brief period of above freezing temperatures could easily keep up with the new daily snowfalls because these snows were light in snow/water equivalent and the ground was frozen underneath providing optimal snow shoveling conditions.

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