Now this is a storm: Snow bet at center of what could turn into legal battle

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Climatologist Cliff Harris and Clark’s Diamond Jewelers owner Jane Clark go over snow measurement totals from midnight Friday January 10 and midnight Saturday Jan. 11. Harris stayed up all night to document the snowfall, which he officially logged at 3.4 inches by noon Saturday, and another .2 inches fell Saturday night before midnight. (LOREN BENOIT/Press)

COEUR d’ALENE — When you swing at Cliff Harris, you’d better be prepared for the counterpunch.

It can be a haymaker.

“I’m a Christian, but I’m not a fool,” a seething Harris said Tuesday. “My reputation of 68 years is on the line. Nobody calls me a liar and gets away with it.”

Harris, a climatologist who maintains a professional weather station in his Coeur d’Alene back yard — including Doppler radar — had recommended Jan. 11 as a good date for Clark’s Diamond Jewelers to run a contest. If it snowed at least 3 inches between midnight Friday and midnight Saturday Jan. 11, Clark’s would refund customers’ purchases made between Nov. 22 and Dec. 31.

That ended up being a $500,000+ bet that Clark’s was thrilled to pay — until the insurance carrier that had backed the bet denied the claim Monday.

Harris stayed up all night to document the snowfall, which he officially logged at 3.4 inches by noon Saturday, and another .2 inches fell Saturday night before midnight.

But according to Clark’s owner “Jeweler Jane” Clark, Spectrum Weather and Specialty Insurance of Liberty, Mo., is balking at the claim. Clark explained that while Harris’s weather station was the agreed-upon location, the official recorder was Illinois-based Weather Command. And Weather Command is claiming only 1.8 inches of snow fell during the designated contest hours.

“That’s what Spokane got,” Harris scoffed. “We had 3.6.”

Harris pointed out that Spokane often gets far less snow than does Coeur d’Alene. In fact, he said the most recent snow that was still coming down late Tuesday morning was precisely twice as much as Spokane had gotten.

Clark said her insurance broker is working to resolve the dispute. Harris said he’ll take it even further.

“I’m going to go after ‘em, and you know what? I’ll win,” he said.

Harris said he will sue Spectrum Weather for $1.5 million, roughly triple what they would have to pay out for losing the snow bet.

“They’re just trying to keep from paying this,” he said. “But we’ve got ‘em. We’ve got all the proof in the world.”

Clark said a complete audit is under way, and she’s expecting word from Spectrum within the next couple days.

Robert Holmes, Spectrum Weather and Specialty Insurance president, had not replied to a written request for comment by the Press deadline Tuesday.

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