San Antonio native Brian Alonzo remembers when he first became fascinated with the weather.
He recalls visiting his grandparent’s property near Canyon Lake where severe thunderstorms often rolled in, and watching the lightning spectacle from his grandparent’s porch. It was like watching magic, Alonzo said.
“We’d lose power — we always lost power,” he said. “So … all there was to do was just watch the storms.”
After nearly 20 years working as a TV meteorologist, Alonzo, 39, has been named CPS Energy’s first chief meteorologist. He will help the utility plan and prepare for extreme weather, such as Winter Storm Uri and now the ongoing heatwave.
CPS Energy faced a barrage of criticism last year for its response to the winter storm, including that rather than having its own staff meteorologist, CPS Energy relied on “a Minnesota-based subscription weather service” and a local college student still studying to earn his meteorology degree, according to KSAT.
Most utilities have a meteorologist on staff; some large energy companies, like Duke Energy, field entire teams.
Because Alonzo is the first full-time on-staff meteorologist for CPS Energy, and has only been on the job for three weeks, he and the utility are “learning as they go” Alonzo said about how his position can have the most impact.
He said he’s already learned a lot about how weather and energy use are innately connected.
“I’m doing a whole lot, and I’ll be quite honest — they’re tacking on more duties for me each day,” he said with a laugh. “Right now we’re doing some basic forecasting, especially during this heatwave that’s going on right now. So I’m disseminating that information and giving it out to our various departments so everybody knows what’s going on with the forecast.”
The basic forecasts he sends staff include daily temperatures, any expected rain or thunderstorms and their severity, and if any tropical systems are heading to Texas that could impact the grid’s availability.
He will also be working to help the utility see how much power wind and solar is being generated across the state, and will help the utility respond quickly to outages caused by incoming thunderstorms.
“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 some external outreach, to educate the public about how weather and energy are related. This could include launching a podcast, school visits and “engaging with customers in other ways” the utility is still determining.
“CPS Energy is thrilled to have Brian as a member of our team,” said interim President and CEO Rudy Garza in a statement from the utility. “Bringing on a chief meteorologist with a solid background like Brian’s reiterates our commitment to communicate with our customers.”
Orlando Bermudez, a weather forecaster with the National Weather Service’s New Braunfels office, said he thinks it’s great that CPS Energy has hired a full-time meteorologist and urged other local utilities to consider doing the same.
Alonzo said he is excited and up for the challenge.
“Essentially I’m getting to fulfill two of my passions in life,” Alonzo said. “I’m really wanting to learn more about renewables, but at the same time, I also get to do my forecasts in a really useful setting.”
The St. Anthony’s graduate grew up in the north-central part of town alongside his older brother. Alonzo attended the University of the Incarnate Word for two years as a communications major while he also worked as a WOAI-TV intern.
After watching live news coverage of the Oklahoma tornado outbreak sequence of May 2003, Alonzo said he was inspired to follow his passion for chasing weather. He transferred to the University of Oklahoma for two years, where he minored in journalism and worked for a local ABC affiliate, KOCO-TV.
But when he found out that a meteorology program was being started at UIW, Alonzo said he knew he wanted to be a part of it. He returned to UIW for another two years, finishing his bachelor’s in meteorology while working as the weather and traffic producer at KSAT-12. Following graduation, he remained at KSAT until 2016.
“Then I decided I wanted to branch out to 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, La. For the next three years, he worked as the weekend meteorologist for the local NBC and FOX affiliates. He then spent the first two years of the pandemic as chief meteorologist for KTVU-TV in Victoria, Texas.
When he saw the CPS Energy job listing, he said, he knew it was time to return home.
Alonzo said he is happy to be back home near his parents and is eager to re-learn San Antonio.
“There’s all these new buildings and highways,” he said. “I know the city is fast growing and we’re all adjusting. I’m totally happy to be back home.”
CPS Energy is a financial supporter of the San Antonio Report. For a full list of business members, click here.