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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Not enough snow for $500K in refunds, verifier determines; CdA jeweler appeals

Kimberly Wickham, manager of Clark’s Diamond Jewelers, laughs with customer Ken Bailey on Saturday. Clark’s ran a promotion promising customers who bought jewelry around the holidays a full refund for their purchases if it snowed 3 inches that day. The store is appealing a determination that enough snow fell. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

A Coeur d’Alene jewelry store was baffled yesterday when an Illinois-based company tasked with verifying Saturday snow accumulation for a marketing promotion disputed what many on the ground believe to be true: It snowed at least 3 inches.

If that determination holds, store customers won’t receive some $500,000 in refunds the store’s owners thought they had won.

Although Saturday was sandwiched in between heavier snow days on Friday and Sunday, Clark’s Diamond Jewelers owner Jane Clark said Coeur d’Alene-based meteorologist Cliff Harris measured 3.3 inches of snow between midnight and 9:30 a.m., plus more in the evening, at his weather station, the official measurement site for the promotion.

“On Saturday, there was probably 3.6 to 4 inches of snow,” Clark said.

While Clark was the store’s private verifier for the promotion, the Illinois-based company Weather Command is the official measurer and is standing by its determination that Coeur d’Alene didn’t get enough snow.

The Weather Command report doesn’t show snow after 2 a.m. or Saturday evening, Clark said. And Clark argues that goes against what she and others saw with their own eyes.

“It’s just not accurate,” Clark said of Weather Command’s determination. “All of us here in town know it was snowing.”

Now Clark is filing a claim with her insurance carrier, with upward of half-a-million dollars in customer refunds on the line. She put up a portion of her sales from the holidays to buy a promotional insurance policy for purchases during that period.

It could be two more days before Clark has an answer from her insurance carrier, Spectrum Weather and Specialty Insurance, she said.

Complicating matters, the National Weather Service’s automated weather station at the Coeur d’Alene Airport in Hayden doesn’t measure snow accumulation, said meteorologist Robin Fox.

The NWS’s most relevant report of accumulation was from an independent observer. That report observed 8 1/2 inches over a 24-hour period that spanned Friday morning to Saturday morning, which means it won’t help settle the dispute over the total.

Further muddling matters is the number of microclimates that can vary by 5 to 10 miles, said Fox. “So we’re a bit uncertain how to address the snow report from Coeur d’Alene.”

Clark said she wonders if Weather Command’s radar equipment failed or if it tracked some moist snow as rain instead. But she recalls having options for promotions for snow totals at every inch.

“If it’s not accurate within a fraction of an inch, then they shouldn’t be offering that,” Clark said of promotions that vary by inch. “That’s why we asked Cliff to be our own private verifier, even though he wasn’t the official measurer.”

Clark is gathering local witness testimonies and photos to dispute Weather Command’s finding. And she has Harris, who measured snow totals from midnight to midnight, to back up her account.

Former owner Dan Clark, Jane Clark’s father, said he did a successful snow total refund promotion in 2005 after getting the idea from a wind-related jewelry promotion in Montana. After that success, he said he had trouble finding an insurance provider for another promotion.

“Ultimately, this is (our customer’s) money,” said Jane Clark. “So I’m going to do everything I can to confirm that we got it.”