San Antonio native Brian Alonzo recalls the first time he was fascinated by the weather.
He remembers visiting his grandparents’ property near Canyon Lake, where severe thunderstorms often rolled in, and watching the lightning show from his grandparents’ porch. It was like watching magic, Alonzo said.
“We would lose power – we always lost power,” he said. “So…all there was to do was watch the storms.”
After nearly 20 years working as a television meteorologist, Alonzo, 39, has been named CPS Energy’s first chief meteorologist. It will help the utility plan and prepare for extreme weather conditions, such as winter storm Uri and now the ongoing heat wave.
CPS Energy faced a barrage of criticism last year for its response to the winter storm, including that instead of having its own meteorologist, CPS Energy relied on “a Minnesota-based subscription weather service and a local student who is still studying to earn his meteorology degree, according to KSAT.
Most utilities have a meteorologist on staff; some large energy companies, such as Duke Energy, deploy entire teams.
Because Alonzo is CPS Energy’s first full-time meteorologist and has only been on the job for three weeks, he and the utility are “learning as you go,” Alonzo said of how his position can have the most impact.
He said he had already learned a lot about how weather and energy use are intrinsically linked.
“I do a lot of things, and I’ll be completely honest – they give me more tasks every day,” he said with a laugh. “Right now we’re making baseline forecasts, especially during this heat wave that’s unfolding right now. So I disseminate this information and pass it on to our various departments so that everyone knows what is happening with the forecasts.
The basic forecasts it sends to staff include daily temperatures, any expected rain or thunderstorms and their severity, and whether any tropical systems are heading into Texas that could impact network availability.
It will also work to help the utility see how much wind and solar power is being generated in the state, and help the utility respond quickly to outages caused by incoming storms.
“We’re looking at the grand scheme of things, not just San Antonio – but the state as a whole,” he said.
CPS Energy spokeswoman Christine Patmon said Alonzo will also do external outreach, to educate the public on how time and energy are linked. This could include launching a podcast, school tours and “engaging with customers in other ways,” public service is always key.
“CPS Energy is thrilled to have Brian on our team,” Interim President and CEO Rudy Garza said in a statement from the utility. “Having a senior meteorologist with a solid background like Brian’s reiterates our commitment to communicating with our customers.
Orlando Bermudez, a weather forecaster with the National Weather Service’s New Braunfels office, said he thought it was great that CPS Energy hired a full-time meteorologist and urged other local utilities to consider making same.
Alonzo said he was excited and ready for the challenge.
“Essentially, I get to fulfill two of my passions in life,” Alonzo said. “I really want to learn more about renewable energy, but at the same time I can also make my predictions in a really useful framework.”
The St. Anthony graduate grew up in the city’s north-central alongside his older brother. Alonzo attended the University of the Incarnate Word for two years as a communication specialist while also working as a WOAI-TV intern.
After watching live media coverage of footage from the Oklahoma tornado outbreak in May 2003, Alonzo said he was inspired to follow his passion for time hunting. He transferred to the University of Oklahoma for two years, where he majored in journalism and worked for a local ABC affiliate, KOCO-TV.
But when he found out that a meteorology program was starting at UIW, Alonzo said he knew he wanted to be part of it. He returned to UIW for another two years, completing his bachelor’s degree in meteorology while working as a weather and traffic producer at KSAT-12. After graduating, he stayed at KSAT until 2016.
“Then I decided I wanted to branch out on air,” Alonzo said. “And so typically most people move to smaller markets to get started there.”
Alonzo headed east to Tyler, Texas, located about an hour and a half between Dallas and Shreveport, Louisiana. For the next three years, he worked as a weekend weatherman for local affiliates of NBC and FOX. He then spent the first two years of the pandemic as chief weatherman for KTVU-TV in Victoria, Texas.
When he saw CPS Energy’s job listing, he said, he knew it was time to go home.
Alonzo said he was happy to be back home near his parents and was looking forward to relearning San Antonio.
“There are all these new buildings and highways,” he said. “I know the city is growing fast and we are all adapting. I’m totally happy to be back home.
CPS Energy financially supports the San Antonio report. For a complete list of member companies, click here.