SDG&E Weather Network Prepares San Diego for Santa Ana Conditions

Technology, Safety, Environmental, General

In an effort to track adverse weather conditions during the dangerous Santa Ana fire season, SDG&E has expanded its weather sensor network to a total of 144 state-of-the-art weather stations throughout the region.  Already the largest and most sophisticated utility system in the nation, the weather network measures everything from temperature and humidity to wind speed and solar radiation, all of which provides a greater awareness of the state of the electric grid and provides valuable information to prevent wildfires.

Local fire agencies have used this weather network to assist their response to every major fire that has occurred in the region in the last few years.  SDG&E transmits the weather information to the National Weather Service, CAL FIRE and other regional first responders through a mobile application that allows firefighters to view the latest information in the field.  These reports from SDG&E’s many sensor locations give firefighters a highly detailed and accurate picture of changing weather conditions in the fire zone and other San Diego microclimates, thus helping emergency crews battle the fire more effectively.  In addition, these detailed reports allow SDG&E to proactively place repair crews and firefighting teams at locations of highest risk around the County, as well as monitor the effects of weather on the electric grid on a daily basis. 

“We are using this vital weather center daily to enhance the region’s preparedness for fires and other weather emergencies,” said Brian D’Agostino, senior meteorologist at SDG&E.  “In addition, we are conducting cutting-edge research of our local weather patterns for the benefit of all of San Diego.”

The weather data collected by this system is contributing to research on Santa Ana winds, as SDG&E works in collaboration with key universities and governmental agencies.  Personnel look at wind speed, temperature, the dryness of local vegetation, and other factors to rate Santa Ana winds and other weather patterns according to their potential to start or spread a major fire, as well as gauge the fire threat throughout the year.  In fact, SDG&E research has already pinpointed exactly where Santa Ana winds are strongest, which is on mountain slopes and not necessarily in valleys or canyons as previously thought.  This vital discovery has expanded overall knowledge of Santa Anas and allowed SDG&E to place fire crews in these high-risk areas to help the region prepare for these powerful winds.

By deploying this advanced weather-tracking technology, SDG&E has offered yet another tool that bolsters safety and empowers the community to a new level of knowledge and preparedness in the San Diego region.  SDG&E will continue to focus on using the latest technology to help firefighters in the field pre-empt and effectively manage the dangers of Santa Ana winds with the goals of saving lives and property during fire season.

SDG&E Meteorologists Brian D’Agostino and Steve Vanderburg in SDG&E's Weather Center
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