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UCSD Supercomputer Helps Firefighters Battle Southern California Wildfires And More Local News

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Southern California firefighters are tapping the UCSD supercomputer to help track wildfires. Plus, San Diego transit officials next month will start deploying a small fleet of electric buses, the next phase of green transportation. And more San Diego community college students will have a chance at free tuition, thanks to the San Diego Promise program. San Diego high school students heard from a Holocaust survivor, who’s published a new memoir. Finally, Digital Gym Cinema is showcasing a trio of indie horror films full of blood and other bodily fluids.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 It's Thursday, October 24th I'm Prius there and you're listening to San Diego news matters from KPBS coming up. Southern California firefighters are tapping a UCS D super computer to help track wildfires and as Californians prepare for another wave of power shutoffs many utility companies are looking at what San Diego gas and electric has done to prepare a major change from 10 years ago is that we can see those days coming. That and more San Diego new stories coming up. Thank you for joining us for San Diego news matters. I'm Priya. Sure either Southern California firefighters are tapping university of California San Diego super computers to figure out where wildfires are heading. KPBS environment reporter Eric Anderson has details.

Speaker 2: 00:48 Orange County fire officials started using the wifi or tool in September. The sophisticated fire modeling software uses real time data to run rapid simulations. It was one thing that Southern California firefighters use to battle the Palisades fire in Los Angeles on Monday. UC San Diego engineer Raymond to Califone says why fire helped crews by providing six hour predictions of where the fire was headed.

Speaker 3: 01:12 So it helps to see where the fire is likely going to go. So fire department can use this for planning purpose, where to put their limited resources. Uh, it can also be used to plan maybe the aircraft and we'll go over where to put the fire out

Speaker 2: 01:26 locally. The supercomputer can tap into San Diego gas and Electric's extensive network of weather stations in the back country that gives engineer's real time data like temperature, humidity and wind speeds. Eric Anderson KPBS news

Speaker 1: 01:40 just in time for Halloween, digital Jim's cinema is showcasing a trio of indie horror films. KPBS film critic Beth Armando separates the tricks from the tree leads,

Speaker 4: 01:50 digital gyms, cinema programs, eclectic, fair, and often as the only place to find certain independent and foreign films. Starting Friday, the Microcinema is hosting a three film indie horror showcase featuring one French, two U S releases. Francis knife plus heart is the tastiest treat of the trio. The film serves up and audaciously stylized Omaj to Italian slasher films of the 70s known as gloc. The film looks to Anne who makes cheap gay porn, and her sexy cast is being targeted by a sadistic mass killer. Knife plus heart will offend some with excesses that are both artful and tawdry. This is the type of film people often want me to apologize for liking, but I adore it's drunk on style approach, especially when it offers a bloody Valentine to cinema itself and art on the outermost fringes. The us film bliss also looks to an artist trying to create a masterpiece. The film rebels in body horror that showcases some inventive effects work. The least interesting of the three films is the girl on the third floor about a man trying to renovate a possessed house. The house proves the most character,

Speaker 1: 03:00 but the film never finds a clever way to deal with familiar horror tropes. Beth luck. Amando KPBS news, indie horror opens Friday at digital Jim's cinema on [inaudible] Boulevard. San Diego's public transit is getting greener in more ways than one MTS is rolling out a small fleet of green electric buses that run entirely on batteries. KPBS Metro reporter Andrew Bowen says they're the next generation of sustainable transportation other than the new color scheme. MTS is new electric buses look almost identical to the existing fleet, but these ones are quiet,

Speaker 5: 03:35 so quiet they don't really make for great radio.

Speaker 6: 03:39 Mike Wygant

Speaker 5: 03:40 is chief of bus operations at MTS. He says state regulations will soon require the agency to start purchasing more and more zero emission buses. The goal is to transition to an all electric fleet by 2040

Speaker 6: 03:54 so this is just the next step of us looking into the most cost effective way to put the most environmentally friendly vehicle on the road.

Speaker 5: 04:02 The new buses are more expensive, almost twice. The cost of conventional buses that run on natural gas, the transit agency paid for them with a mix of local money and state grants and the technology has its limitations. Buses will have to stop and recharge.

Speaker 6: 04:18 It is improving. It's probably improving about 5% every other year is what we've seen so far. Um, but uh, it's still not one for one.

Speaker 5: 04:26 In other words, the technology will have to improve to match their performance of the existing buses. MTS, we'll be test driving the buses throughout San Diego to gather them data

Speaker 1: 04:36 on how they perform. Passengers will be able to catch a ride on the new buses. Late next month. Andrew Bowen, KPBS news, San Diego community college students have access to a free tuition program called San Diego promise. KPBS speaks city Heights reporter Ebony Monet tells us what this means for San Diego continuing education students. It took her a decade, but that just adds to Lovette our Seagas Prine about earning our high school diploma. It takes only in our intake [inaudible] you know, for you to take that step in determination of what you want for yourself. And it might, it might took me 10 years, but I did it when she was ready to go back to school. She went to San Diego continuing education, the largest single feeder of students to San Diego community colleges. Now the single mother of three as a student at San Diego city college. Our Sega is a San Diego promise recipient. It covers tuition expenses and also helps with books for qualifying full time students.

Speaker 1: 05:34 I am not, I have not gotten to it yet. I have a little ride pad, but I would have been done without them. Our single wants to go to San Diego state university after she earned her associate's degree. She's the first in her family to go to college. Ebony Monet K PBS news. The San Diego community college district has begun a fundraising campaign for promise San Diego called keeping the promise. For more information, go to K pbs.org Holocaust survivor Rose Schindler of San Diego has been telling students her story for decades now with the help of her son. She's published a book about her experience. KPPs education reporter Joe Hong went to Ramona high school to hear her story firsthand.

Speaker 7: 06:16 Each year, thousands of students across the country read the diary of Anne Frank and night by Lev Zell Roche. Schindler hopes her new book two who survived will also become part of the literature. Students read about the Holocaust.

Speaker 4: 06:28 I've been speaking at school since, Oh my 45 years and it's middle school, high school. I go to the military, I go to the churches, synagogues. I never say no because it's so important to tell the world what happened to us. So many people don't have any idea what happened during the second world war.

Speaker 7: 06:45 The book tells the story of how Rose and her husband, also a Holocaust survivor, started a life together in the United States while grappling with their experiences in the concentration camps. Joe Hong K PBS news,

Speaker 1: 06:57 electric utility companies across California are warning customers that power shutoffs are likely once again because of high winds and wildfire risks. Pacific gas and Electric's last power shutoff in Northern California was widely criticized. Since then, politicians and pundits have held up San Diego gas and electric as an example of better wildfire preparedness as part of our California dream collaboration. KPBS is Clara Trag. As Sarah looks into what's been done in San Diego and how it works. It's bright and sunny out, but dark is night inside live Oak market and liquor. A small store in the far Eastern portion of San Diego County owner, Matthew NISO, skins the Isles,

Speaker 4: 07:39 this all be losing here because it's hot now.

Speaker 1: 07:44 His power was turned off by SDG ne as a precaution against wildfires. He says the outage will cost him $12,000 in loss

Speaker 4: 07:53 goods and a plus the business today and yesterday here to save is nothing like a dangerous. Okay. Why could the power

Speaker 1: 08:02 NISO is clearly frustrated, but he was only one of about 500 customers who lost power a few weeks ago in Northern California. PG knee cut power to more than 700,000 customers. These quote public safety power shutoffs had become the new normal across California with increased heat and wildfire danger. But in San Diego the number of customers affected is much smaller. In six years, a combined total of only 52,000 customers have lost power in SDG and E's operation center. Limiting the size of shutoffs is a priority.

Speaker 4: 08:40 So yes, our, our meteorology team right now of course is kind of head down getting ready for the upcoming event.

Speaker 1: 08:46 Brian D'Agostino is SDG unis, director of fire science and climate adaptation. The event he's talking about is a hot and dry weekend with strong Santa Ana winds. Conditions ripe for a fire. He stands in front of five giant monitors showing live mountaintop cameras and yellow, blue and red squiggles representing the utilities power lines.

Speaker 8: 09:09 A major change from 10 years ago is that we can see those days coming.

Speaker 1: 09:15 San Diego's utility serves a quarter as many customers over a far smaller area than PG nee and its terrain is less challenging to manage, but in the past decade, SDG knee has spent more than one point $5 billion on wildfire preparedness, including an overhaul of its grid to minimize large scale power shutoffs. All of this requires a lot of data which SDG knee collects from 190 weather stations spread across the region. While PGNE also uses weather stations, they've only been set up recently, which means the utility doesn't yet have all the data. It needs

Speaker 8: 09:55 these tools, analyze all of the historical data and tell us, when do we have that type of day that can result in a catastrophic fire?

Speaker 9: 10:06 Are they better than in the North? The utilities in the North? Yeah, probably. But does that mean that they are the gold standard? Absolutely not.

Speaker 1: 10:17 Diane Jacob is a San Diego County supervisor and a longtime critic of SDG Annie. She says, the utility made those changes too late. Only after power lines started devastating fires in 2007 that burned hundreds of homes and killed two people.

Speaker 9: 10:33 They're more interested in covering their liability rear end, and they are about looking out for the best interest of those who have suffered losses and the rate payers.

Speaker 1: 10:45 Jacob says, SDG uni is still behind on making the changes critical to preventing future fires. Finish the job. Brian D'Agostino with SDG knee counters that the utility is aggressively making improvements. He was one of the team of meteorologists first hired after the 2007 fires to collect data and avoid massive shutoffs. That's a process that PG knee is just beginning now in San Diego. I'm Claire Tyga, sir. KPBS reporter Matt Hoffman contributed to this report.

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San Diego News Matters

KPBS' daily news podcast covering local politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings so you can listen on your morning commute.