NSWW Southern Cal2003

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The Southern California Wildfires of 2003: 

The Southern California Wildfires of 2003 James K. Purpura Meteorologist-In-Charge NWS, San Diego, Ca

Description of Fires: 

Description of Fires One of the most costly disasters in California History $2,000,000,000 + losses 2nd costliest in Ca. history in terms of lives 22 killed

Description of Fires: 

Description of Fires 3,600 Homes Destroyed Nearly 740,000 Acres Burned NWS Property Damaged or Destroyed

Video of Paradise and Cedar Fires (10/26/03): 

Video of Paradise and Cedar Fires (10/26/03)

Location Map of Wildfires Fire Starts From 10/21 thru 10/26: 

Location Map of Wildfires Fire Starts From 10/21 thru 10/26


Int 15 N & Miramar Way - Note that cars are being turned around


The fire moves south down Oak Canyon toward the 52 freeway.


Aerial view of the fire line along Route 15 near Miramar Air Station.


A San Diego police officer backs his car off Clairemont Mesa Blvd just east of I-15 as the fire flares up on the north side.


Fire rages on the east side of the I-15 at Clairemont Mesa Blvd


Traffic backed up on I-15 from closures forced by the wildfires


Another view of I-15 near Miramar


The fire line nears a Scripps Ranch development. These are fairly new $600,000 - $700,000 homes.


The fire line nears a Scripps Ranch development.


A large home burns out of control in Ramona


A typical scene in some of the ranch areas in San Diego County


A horse is kept at the Valley View Casino after being rescued from the fire in Valley Center in Sunday


Ventura County firefighters look at a firewhirl from a wildfire, Sunday, in Simi Valley


A home burns along North Lake Wohlford Road at Valley Center Road on Sunday morning

Timeline for NWS: 

Timeline for NWS First threat of Fire Danger Mentioned on 6 a.m. HWO Wed 10/22 As it appeared threat was imminent, significant event briefings were held for staff beginning Wed. 10/22 A Special Weather Statement was issued 1130 am Friday to alert the public of the increasing threat of fires, especially by Sunday

Timeline Part 2: 

Timeline Part 2 Wind Advisory issued 230 PM Friday Through Sat PM Mentioned “High Wind Warning may be needed Sat night and Sunday” Narrative warned of “extreme fire danger in lower elevations of the mountains and foothills” and said “winds will be stronger Sunday”

Timeline Part 3: 

Timeline Part 3 High Wind Watch issued 930 PM Friday for Saturday night and Sunday

Timeline Part 4: 

Timeline Part 4 Red Flag Warning issued 1045 AM Saturday…below mountain passes and canyons

Timeline Part 5: 

Timeline Part 5 High Wind Warning/Wind Advisory issued 830 AM Through 9 PM Sunday Cancelled 200 PM Sunday Wind Advisory through 2 PM Monday CEM issued 200 PM Sunday Fire Emergency across north and east portions of San Diego Metro area

Electronic Equipment was adversely affected by the fires…: 

Electronic Equipment was adversely affected by the fires… Fire burned up to the KNKX radar Destroyed data and power lines Destruction of trailers at KNKX upper air site Destroyed phone and power lines

Electronics Timeline… Sunday, 10/26/2003: 

Electronics Timeline… Sunday, 10/26/2003 ESA received call at home that the KNKX RDA wideband line was down. ESA attempted to travel to site, saw fire surrounding RDA buildings. While at the WFO, ESA found that Upper Air Facility was at minimum not reachable due to the fires., ESA called the Incident Command Post for the Cedar Fire and informed them that the Upper Air Facility had up to 20 tanks of compressed hydrogen stored at the site.

Monday, 10/27/2003: 

Monday, 10/27/2003 Upon arrival at WFO, ESA departed to assess damages to RDA and Upper Air Facility. Initial assessment of RDA Site was no significant damage to the site itself. Power was available to the equipment shelters thanks to the RDA emergency generator. Equipment status was unknown. Telecommunications and power lines were destroyed by fire.

Monday, 10/27/2003 (cont.): 

Monday, 10/27/2003 (cont.) Initial assessment of the Upper Air Facility revealed significant damage. Contractor and Storage trailers were destroyed Inflation building was damaged. Hydrogen tanks appeared to be intact

Tuesday, 10/28/2003: 

Tuesday, 10/28/2003 Began environmental cleanup at Upper Air Facility This was where we stored unused and waste oil, antifreeze and batteries. Site cleanup was completed within 8 hours.

Tuesday, 10/28/2003 (cont.): 

Tuesday, 10/28/2003 (cont.) Image of a wooden power pole that used to provide electricity to the RDA

Tuesday, 10/28/2003 : 

Tuesday, 10/28/2003 WFO San Diego MIC and ESA; WRH and NWSHQ personnel conducted conference call to determine a plan of action for the rebuild and restoration of the Upper Air facility. Initial plans were for NWSHQ to send out and install a temporary Radiosonde system Temporary facilities including a trailer, generator, and portable office building were ordered.

Wednesday, 10/29/2003: 

Wednesday, 10/29/2003 Hydrogen contractor arrived at UAF. Inspection of tanks showed no damage. All hydrogen tanks were removed from site. Site debris cleanup contractor began removal of damaged trailers and other equipment. ROC personnel en route to San Diego to install wireless solution to get data from WSR-88D. NWSHQ Upper Air personnel arrived on site to begin site assessment and installation of a backup UA system. Received notification from IMET on “Grand Prix” fire in San Bernardino that power had been removed to the Strawberry Peak area for firefighter safety.

Thursday, 10/30/2003: 

Thursday, 10/30/2003 Began installation of upper air system in temporary trailer and using inflation building to mount the antennas. Began the installation of wireless equipment for the WSR-88D system Site debris removal completed by end of day. Took delivery of generator and got power established at the Upper Air facility to the temporary trailer and inflation building.

Friday, 10/31/2003: 

Friday, 10/31/2003 ROC Engineers completed installation of wireless equipment. Wideband connection established, but would drop out periodically. Troubleshooting showed that one of the radios was possibly failing causing the occasional drop out on the link. A new radio was ordered and set for delivery on Saturday.

Friday, 10/31/2003 (cont.): 

Friday, 10/31/2003 (cont.) Upper Air installation of temporary upper air system progressing well. System installed and being tested, some minor problems with hardware were found and repaired. First balloon release (non-synoptic) was accomplished late Friday afternoon. Data from balloon release was hand-carried to WFO for entry into AWIPS (No phone line available at time!)

Saturday, 11/01/2003: 

Saturday, 11/01/2003 ROC Engineers received new radio, installed and tested it in the system. Found that the wideband was still dropping out, worked to improve physical connections between all three sites. Upper Air Site, found that software loaded on PC to collect data from flight was European encoded rather than North America encoded. NWSHQ personnel bought a new computer locally and installed the North America encoded software. First synoptic flight using temporary system and cellular electronic connection between system and SGX AWIPS performed at 00Z, 11/02/2003.

Sunday, 11/02/2003: 

Sunday, 11/02/2003 Narrowband radar data again received from KNKX RDA. Upper Air releases continue on schedule. All upper air contract personnel are trained on the use of the new equipment and data transfer procedures.

Monday, 11/03/2003: 

Monday, 11/03/2003 WFO San Diego ET and WRH SFT traveled to NWR site at Strawberry Peak to evaluate system status. Found site off-air, with emergency power generator not running. Troubleshooting generator problem which was quickly fixed. NWR Transmitter restored to normal operations at 11:30 PST.

Summary of Equipment Outage and Restoration Times.: 

Summary of Equipment Outage and Restoration Times. KNKX WSR-88D: Outage began Sunday, October 26, 2003 at 0900 PST. System restored – Partly Operational on Sunday, November 2, 2003 at 1300 PST. Commercial power restored Friday, November 7, 2003 at 1000 PST. System fully restored on Monday, November 10, 2003 at 1345 PST. Total time system down 172 hours. NKX Upper Air: Last “normal” release: Sunday, October 26, 2003 at 1200Z. First “official” release using W9000 system: Sunday, November 2, 2003 at 0000Z. Total time system down 156 hours. Missed 13 flights.

Summary of Equipment Outage and Restoration Times. (cont.): 

Summary of Equipment Outage and Restoration Times. (cont.) TPSC1 San Bernardino Mountains NOAA Weather Radio: Logged out on Wednesday, October 29, 2003 at 2000 PST. This time is estimated based on IMET report that the power was cut to mountain for firefighter safety. System restored on Monday, November 3, 2003 at 1130 PST. Reason for system outage was a failed battery on the Emergency Power Generator locate at NWR transmitter site. Total time system down 111.5 hours.

The Southern California Wildfires of 2003: 

The Southern California Wildfires of 2003 James K. Purpura Meteorologist-In-Charge NWS, San Diego, Ca QUESTIONS?

The Southern California Wildfires of 2003: 

The Southern California Wildfires of 2003 James K. Purpura Meteorologist-In-Charge NWS, San Diego, Ca Now’s here a look at another type of hazardous weather…


Fallbrook/Temecula, Ca 2/19/05 1720Z

The Southern California Wildfires of 2003: 

The Southern California Wildfires of 2003 James K. Purpura Meteorologist-In-Charge NWS, San Diego, Ca JIM PURPURA NWS SAN DIEGO 11440 W. Bernardo Court, Suite 230 San Diego, Ca 92127 858-675-8700 x 222 [email protected]

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