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SDG&E's Ultimate "Crystal Ball"


Last updated 5/4/2016 at 9:13am

San Diego County has weathered extreme conditions over the years. October 2007, saw nearly two dozen wildfires with hurricane-force Santa Ana winds whipping the flames into an inferno causing widespread damage.

Since those wildfires, electric utilities worldwide have recognized that the weather has the single, greatest impact on operations.

In 2007, SDG&E had access to data from only a handful of federally-owned weather stations, none of which were located in the windiest areas of their service territory. As a result, there was no way to know the true severity of the winds occurring in many of the backcountry communities.

Now with 173 weather stations, SDG&E has the largest and densest utility-owned weather network in America. All of the data is publicly available 24/7 to the National Weather Service, fire agencies, other emergency agencies and the public. The data is vital in identifying where and when the threat of uncontrolled wildfires is the greatest. This "Fire Potential Index" converts environmental, statistical and scientific data into an easily understood, 7-day forecast of the short-term fire threat for the various geographical areas in SDG&E's service area.

In 2014, SDG&E collaborated with the U.S. Forest Service, UCLA and the National Weather Service to develop the "Santa Ana Wildfire Threat Index" for Southern California.

The index – a rating system similar to what is used to rank hurricane severity – lets the public know the severity of the fire potential associated with every Santa Ana wind event and what actions they should take to be safe. This means they now know when and where to pre-stage crews to respond to possible outages or to de-energize power lines for public safety and prevent a fire.

SDG&E's objective is to continue working with partner agencies to develop what could be the ultimate "crystal ball" for predicting wildfires and their outcomes.

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