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THE WINDY CANYONS OF MANHATTAN

A painting company was hired to do work on the outside of a multi-story building located on the lower west side of Manhattan, New York. Scaffolding was constructed on the outside of the building for their painters and maintenance personnel to work on. The scaffolding, when properly constructed, was manufactured to hold up in winds of up to 50 miles per hour.

Three days after the painters began using the scaffolding; it collapsed, injuring two workers. Suit was filed against the manufacturer of the scaffolding, as well as the painting company. The suit claimed negligence on the part of the painting company, for allowing employees to work on a windy day, putting them in a dangerous situation. Attorneys for the defense, presented evidence in pre-trial hearings, which indicated that the wind speeds on the day and time leading up to the accident, were below the threshold levels established by the manufacturer of the equipment. While it was a windy day by some standards, they claimed that it was not excessively so, with the wind speed measured at 25-30 miles per hour out of the northwest.

The law firm representing plaintiffs contacted COMPUWEATHER. An analysis of the weather for that day verified that winds measured at the closest observing sites to the location of the accident were indeed 25-30 miles per hour. But the forensic team at COMPUWEATHER knew that there was more to look at than just the observations. A visit to the location of the scaffolding collapse by one of our meteorologists, revealed that to the west and northwest of the location, across the street from the site of occurrence, were two sets of buildings. And it was the alignment of these buildings that prompted the meteorologist to make a return visit to the site. That return visit was made on a day when the wind was coming from the same direction, and at the same speeds as on the day of the accident. The meteorologist brought along an anemometer, which measures wind speed. Placing the instrument where the scaffolding had been located, what it registered told the story. At the same time that winds were being measured at 30-35 miles per hour at local observing sites, the wind at the accident site was being measured at 45-65 miles per hour! What was happening is that the wind was coming from such a direction, so that it flowed in between the two sets of buildings across the street. The wind was being “forced” in between the buildings, and when this occurs, it accelerates in speed. That is a principle of physics known as The Bernoulli Effect. So while the winds at the observing sites measured one speed, the winds at the exact site of occurrence were quite another story.

Backed with this information from COMPUWEATHER, Plaintiffs attorneys were prepared to go to trial. After disclosure of the information though, a favorable settlement was reached before the matter reached a courtroom.