Northern Plains Weather Services, LLC
Matthew J. Bunkers, Ph.D.
Certified Consulting Meteorologist
Phone: 605.390.7243 (mobile)
Tornado/wind damage case:
Severe storms brought straight-line winds and multiple tornadoes to a city, causing much damage. For one particular building, the insurance company refused to pay for damages because they claimed the winds were too weak and the building was poorly constructed. However, a detailed examination of storm photos, drone video, and eyewitness reports indicated that damage was substantial and debris was strewn in multiple directions—consistent with a tornado. In addition, a careful radar analysis revealed a “tornadic debris signature” over the area of interest, suggesting a tornado affected the area. Wind gusts of 90–100 mph were estimated (EF1 intensity), which prompted the case to settle before going to trial.
— “We were able to get this one settled before the end of the new year. Thanks!“
Crop insurance case:
Hailstorms affected wheat crops at two separate locations, and the size and timing of the hail was needed to assist with an insurance claim. Because no official hail reports were available at the two locations, the insurance company was disinclined to pay the claims. Upon examination of radar data from three sites, radar limitations, surface observations, and available storm reports, it was determined that damaging hail affected both properties. Furthermore, the insurance company’s weather report was dubious based on inconsistencies with the observed hail and wind reports. This analysis helped lead to a settlement before the case went to trial.
— “Thanks for your help, you did excellent work and I would not hesitate to use you again or recommend you should the opportunity arise.“
Mining operations case:
Very wet ground over a 2-year period led to saturated conditions in an area where mining operations are conducted. Complaints were lodged against the company for improper mining operations that caused excess runoff. However, when considering the previous four years of precipitation and the differences from normal/average, along with streamflow and soil moisture percentiles, it was shown that a 2-year dry period was followed by a 2-year wet period. This, in combination with two spring blizzards and cold temperatures near the end of this 2-year wet period, culminated in favorable natural conditions for excess runoff and flooding.
— “Looks great Matthew. Thanks again, and … I suspect I’ll call on you again!“
Snowfall insurance case:
Snow fell during a time when an organization had insurance for at least 5″ of snowfall to protect against losses for their fundraising event. Initial estimates by another consulting firm showed 4.6″ of snow during the period of interest, which resulted in denial of the claim. A more detailed analysis of snowfall reports (and their reliability), police reports, radar signatures, radar snowfall estimates and timing, and snow-to-liquid ratios (SLRs) and SLR changes with time, showed that snowfall very likely equaled or exceeded 5″ during the period of interest. This analysis resulted in full payment of the insurance claim.
— “On behalf of [the] … Board, I want to thank you again for all your work on this file. It truly made the difference.“
Construction delay case:
Adverse weather occurred over a prolonged period that hampered construction for a very large school project. There was disagreement over the claimed number of lost days because of adverse weather. The opposition claimed that the number of days lost because of adverse weather was excessive. However, using a more representative climatology, a winter season severity index, verification of long-range outlooks, rainfall recurrence interval information, soil moisture anomalies, and high-resolution satellite information, it was shown that the period was abnormally wet, snowy, and cold, and also not anticipated—thus, adversely affecting construction operations and planning.
— “My folks and I are pleased with the report you prepared.“
Trip and fall snowfall case:
Heavy snow was associated with a personal injury on a business’s sidewalk, with snowfall rates of 1–2” per hour prior to the incident. The incident occurred around 4 am after 12” of snow fell, in an area where heavy snow like this is rare. There was a well-worn foot path through the snow, and opposing counsel claimed that the person tripped in a “hole” near or just outside of the foot path. Given the snowfall intensity, snow density, and the repeated traffic along the foot path, it is likely that snow compacted into parts of the hole, thus making it questionable that the hole was the ultimate cause of the incident. This analysis helped lead to a settlement before the case went to trial.
— “Thanks again for your help. We will call you if we have another weather issue come up.“
Slip and fall snowfall case:
Snow was associated with a personal injury on a store’s parking lot—three days after the snow event. Although snow was plowed during the snowfall event, additional snow fell that same day, but it was not cleared until several days later. Opposing counsel claimed the additional snowfall was light and that snow blew into the parking lot prior to the accident. However, human snowfall observations, combined with radar and automated observations, indicated that snowfall was at least 2″ after the initial snow was plowed. Also, winds were not strong enough to blow appreciable snow into the parking lot. This analysis led to a settlement before the case went to trial.
— “Thank you for your assistance regarding this matter. I look forward to working with you [again].“
Rain intensity/visibility case:
Rain and/or mist were associated with an accident on an interstate highway. Opposing counsel claimed that only mist was ongoing at the time of the accident. However, upon examination of radar and lightning data, surface and upper-air observations, and publications related to radar-rainfall rates and visibility, it was evident that heavy rainfall occurred during and immediately preceding the accident, thus leading to low visibility (and the possibility for hydroplaning). This analysis led to a settlement well before the case went to trial.
— “We have verbally agreed to a settlement in this matter. Thank you very much for all your help.“
Rainfall insurance case:
Rain fell during a time when an organization had insurance for at least 0.25″ of rain to protect against losses for their outdoor fundraising event. Initial estimates by another consulting firm showed 0.14″ of rain during the period of interest, which resulted in denial of the claim. A more detailed analysis of radar rainfall estimates and the associated errors, along with nearby supplemental precipitation reports from several observers, showed that rainfall likely equaled or exceeded 0.25″ during the period of interest. This analysis resulted in full payment of the insurance claim.
— “You are the most tenacious and effective expert with whom I have had the pleasure to work.“
Grain bin damage case:
Severe thunderstorms resulted in widespread wind damage in an area with marginal radar coverage. Using severe storm reports, surface observations, data from the four closest radars, and knowledge of severe thunderstorm signatures, the wind gust was estimated between 90 and 105 mph for the location where a grain bin was destroyed. This helped show that the grain bin was destroyed as a result of the wind (and not because of faulty construction). This analysis led to a settlement before the case went to trial.
— “This matter settled at mediation. Thank you for your assistance in this case. It was great working with you, Dr. Bunkers.“