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Flashover Watch

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Fred Johnson, Hinterland Electric's latest junior engineer, has been put on rotation with several field crews in order to gain experience in the company's vast and diverse service area. This morning, 5 a.m. in mid-August, finds Fred sitting in Buff Whimsy's truck parked on sand dunes on the Northern Californian coast. The truck is facing East and the two men can see a few lights in the scattered beach communities.

Buff explains that they are here to spot early morning distribution flashovers. Hinterland Electric still hadn't purchased an outage management system. (Squabbling in the executive budget committee had held up the decision for over six years) so field workers were often assigned to early morning "flashover watch" -the good ones, like Buff, had an innate sense about when flashovers and excessive corona might occur and could locate them along the line just by seeing the flash.

"That is, when the fog isn't too thick" says Buff.

"What fog?" asks Fred, since the the air seemed quite clear, particularly for being right near the water.

"Oh, you'll see," laughs Buff. "In the next hour fog will form that's as thick as clam chowder" (Buff loved sea food). "Happens most nights in the summer."

Buzz continues "But what really keeps the overtime coming in are the summer flashovers that usually happen just before the fog forms!"

Ironically, no flashovers occur this morning, although a breeze comes up. But Fred, an amateur meteorologist ponders why flashovers would tend to occur before the fog. And why does the fog usually appear at that time anyway. And why didn't something - fog, insulator noise- happen this morning?

By the time Fred arrives back at his motel (after a 2 hour, 35 minute commute) he thinks he knows why.

Can you explain why the fog, why the insulator flashovers, why the time?

Think you know? Enter your answer below and make sure you are registered and have completed verification (we cannot award the gift card without verification by email). A $50 gift card will go out to the best answer received in the next four weeks.

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