At about 400 feet above sea level a remote weather station in the Montecito foothills is perfect for capturing critical weather information, especially during high wind and risky fire conditions.
Located at La Casa de Maria Retreat center on El Bosque Rd., the Remote Automated Weather Station (RAWS) was first tested in 2010.
The site was an open space where a sweeping mountain canyon comes down from the hills, and joins the residential area of mixed sized homes. The exclusive San Ysidro Ranch is also nearby.
The roads are narrow, the driveways are long, and the escape routes are limited in an emergency. It’s one of the reasons why information, early on, is essential.
The system can be read from virtually any location. It puts out vital information about temperature, wind, humidity and other conditions 24 hours a day.
Montecito Fire Protection District Information Officer, Geri Ventura says the data is crucial. “Especially when we have heat, when we have winds predicted, when we have low humidity, we look at that regularly so we know how we want to staff what equipment we want to use,” she said. “we have conference calls with other chiefs.”
La Casa de Maria General Manager Stephanie Glatt said, “We know the more information the emergency agencies have, the safer we will be so we are helping them get all the information they can get.”
Glatt says there have been times when it’s calm at the site, and in an instant a blast of wind will roar through the canyon and hit the property. In some cases window have slammed and doors have broken loose.
It’s not uncommon for winds to clock in at over 50 miles per hour. Even if there isn’t a fire, there are occasionally downed trees or busted limbs that fall in the roadway during gusty events.
In the past, fire crews have gathered some readings simply by driving to a spot and collecting the information manually. “So by knowing that (data) in real time it enables us to prepare for disasters,” said Ventura who pointed out that weather can often be a reasonable indicator for preventive action by emergency agencies and the public. Knowing a storm, or high fire conditions are coming, can lead to a widespread message to thousands about the steps they need to take to save lives and property.
The information can also be viewed by the public through the Montecito Fire Protection District web site at: http://www.montecitofire.com/