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“HOT OR NOT” – IN THE MIDDLE OF A COOL NIGHT?

COMPUWEATHER was recently contacted by the attorneys for a very large construction company in the Midwest United States which was working on a 30 mile road improvement and renovation project on a major interstate. The company planned very carefully for this project which included taking numerous precautions to make sure their work crews would remain safe while working in extreme heat on this job. They were especially concerned with their crews working during the day since the most extreme heat would be experienced during that time. Field managers and workers were provided training on methods of staying hydrated and staying safe when working in extreme heat.

On one evening in July the company dispatched their night crews out to the project site. The temperature during the peak of the day had been well over 100 degrees. At 9 pm the temperature had dropped to almost 80 degrees and this appeared to be one of the “cooler” nights they had seen in a few weeks. The temperature continued to drop a few degrees per hour and made for a very comfortable work environment compared to earlier in the day. Normal precautions were taken to deal with an anticipated 70-80 degree evening and public weather forecasts were checked, which confirmed the conditions would be in that range for the entire work shift.

At 4:15 am ambulances were called to the project site to deal with numerous heat emergencies and injuries for over 50 of their workers including heat exhaustion and extreme dehydration.  Injured workers reported extreme heat after midnight much worse than the predicted 70-80 degrees they were told to expect.  Did the company fail to take the proper precautions, were field managers not properly trained, could negligence be involved – all of these were questions posed by attorneys representing the injured workers.

COMPUWEATHER’s team of forensic meteorologists were retained to investigate why these injuries occurred at night and to determine the temperatures experienced specifically at the job site throughout the night in question. An analysis was conducted and it was confirmed that the temperature at the job site had dropped from a peak of 107 degrees during the day to 78 degrees at midnight and continued to drop to 71 degrees at 2am. Between 2 am and 3am the temperature rose dramatically to 102 degrees where it stayed throughout most of the night. The extreme night temperatures combined with high winds and falling dew points were conditions that led to the unexpected nighttime conditions confirmed by the injured worker’s statements.

COMPUWEATHER concluded that a rare weather phenomenon known as a “heat burst” had taken place at the job site that evening which could not have been anticipated or forecasted. Heat bursts are extremely rare and typically occur at night time. They are characterized by a rapid increase in temperature, a decrease in dew point and gusty winds. The analysis by COMPUWEATHER made it easy to explain the unexpected high heat in the middle of the night. The case never went to court as the information provided by COMPUWEATHER proved pivotal in minimizing and determining the construction company’s liability in this matter.