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No Snow or Ice Cover – How Did the Slip and Fall Take Place?

Contributed by James Bria, CCM, CompuWeather Sr. Forensic Meteorologist, Weather Expert & Certified Consulting Meteorologist

Slip and Fall“Snow and ice cover” is defined as snow and ice on untreated, undisturbed and exposed outdoor surfaces. Basically that is considered snow and ice untouched by human activity. When snow or ice cover is no longer present due to a sufficient period of above freezing temperatures, you may  ask…..how is it possible that a person could slip and fall on ice? Well there are various instances when ice could result in a slip and fall even though all of the snow or ice cover has melted away. These instances are usually the result of the freezing of residual moisture in the vicinity of the accident.

If a rain event occurs and temperatures rapidly fall below freezing after the event has ended, black ice can form and result in slippery conditions. Another common instance of this is with snow piles that have been created as a result of human activity (shoveling, plowing, snow blowing, etc.) . The largest of these snow piles can often last for months after the snow and ice cover has completely melted away. Every day, these piles of snow will melt during the day then the water will runoff from the piles and refreeze at night as temperatures fall back below freezing. Another instance of this is when sprinklers are watering grass at night and the temperature falls below freezing. The below freezing temperatures can result in the formation of ice on all surfaces exposed to this water. CompuWeather meteorologists understand when and how these situations can occur even if there is not any pre-existing snow or ice cover, and if there has not been any wintry precipitation to contribute to the ground conditions.