Translate Our Site

City Unveils New Lightning Prediction System at Balloon Fiesta Park

The Thor Guard Lightning Prediction System provides at least 15 minutes of warning time before lightning is expected to strike.


October 6, 2017

The City of Albuquerque Parks and Recreation Department is excited to unveil its newest tool in its constant efforts to keep visitors at Balloon Fiesta Park safe. This new, Thor Guard lightning prediction system has been installed at the Golf and Event Center with two auxiliary public warning stations on the North end of the park’s field and on top of the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum. The system is now fully operational and ready to help protect the thousands of visitors expected for the 2017 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. It will also be in use year-round, as nearly 100 events are held at the park annually.

The Parks and Recreation Department has been investigating the purchase of a lightning prediction system for several of the multi-use parks in the city but use of Balloon Fiesta Park as the pilot location was precipitated by an unanticipated weather event at Balloon Fiesta in 2016. A lightning strike came very close to the field at Balloon Fiesta Park on a Saturday morning. Mass Ascension was over and most of the crowd had already left the field, but hundreds remained in the park, moving to their cars or waiting for park and ride. Balloon Fiesta Parks and Recreation staff, using a weather prediction app, got notification that lightning was nearby and in turn evacuated hundreds of visitors to Sid Cutter Pilots’ Pavilion, buses or their cars. The evacuation was efficient and no one was injured but the event got City officials thinking about ways to provide even more notice when dangerous weather is approaching the park.

Typical lightning detection systems analyze electromagnetic disruptions in our atmosphere and are able to tell you when lightning has occurred nearby. This new Thor Guard system instead predicts if lightning is likely to strike in the park and how long it will be before it could happen. Balloon Fiesta staff will receive an alert on their phones through the Thor Guard website, as well as an alert from the main software box, through the public alarm stations. If we receive an alert of this nature Recreation staff would begin to evacuate Balloon Fiesta Park and would have at least 15 minutes of warning time to get the evacuation underway.

“Keeping our residents and visitors safe at Balloon Fiesta Park is our highest priority. This investment by Councilor Winter allows us to do an even better job of ensuring that safety and will be a constantly utilized tool for years to come,” says Mayor Richard J. Berry.

A special thank you goes out KRQE News 13’s Chief Meteorologist Mark Ronchetti, who assisted the City of Albuquerque in deciding which lightning prediction system to purchase.

This system cost about $26,500 which was generously provided by Councilor Brad Winter, out of his district’s Council Set Aside funds. The system was installed at the park on Tuesday and has been in use since.

Other Information:

  • Project Cost: $26,500 (Council Set Aside funds from Councilor Brad Winter)
  • Construction Completed: Tuesday, October 3, 2017
  • User Agency: City of Albuquerque Parks and Recreation Department
  • Project Manager: Dustin Kiska, Parks and Recreation Planning Division